Mr. SCHURZ said:
Mr. President: The weakness of a cause is apt to disclose itself by the nature of the arguments used in its support. When such arguments consist largely in personal attacks and insinuations concerning the motives and purposes of those holding an opposite view, or in general declamation about other subjects, the suspicion lies near that there must be something wrong and rotten in the matter. If this must be admitted as a general rule, then nobody who has listened to the speeches delivered by the Senator from Indiana [Mr. Morton] and the Senator from New York [Mr. Conkling] will deny that the rule finds its application here. The Senator from Indiana tried to convince the Senate that there could be nothing suspicious in the sales of arms effected by this Government during the French-German war because "every road out of the Republican party leads into the Democratic party;" because the platform of the Missouri Liberals does not accord with his rule of constitutional construction, and must therefore be unrepublican and radically wrong, and because he is in favor of the renomination and reŽlection of General Grant, and he is sure to have it!
The Senator from New York, [Mr. Conkling,] whom I very sincerely regret not to see in his seat after his gallant exploit of yesterday, followed in the footsteps of the Senator from Indiana. He tried to convince us with magnificent rhetoric that the sales of arms must be necessarily above all blame, because there is no impression abroad of the existence of a military ring in this Government; but there is an impression of the existence of a "senatorial cabal" on this floor bent upon destroying this Administration, and that the Democrats are circulating the speeches of certain Republican Senators in New Hampshire in order to defeat the Administration party there.
These things may all have been very interesting, instructive, and elegantly expressed, but permit me to suggest that they did not throw much light upon the question now under discussion; and I should pass them over without further notice did I not deem it proper to devote a few remarks to one thing brought forward by the Senator from New York yesterday.
With an air of triumph he held up a pamphlet purporting to contain a copy of a speech of mine, saying that that pamphlet was circulated by the Democratic party as a campaign document in New Hampshire, and was producing greater effect than any document so far distributed by them among the people. I have since inquired into that matter; and what, sir, do you think that pamphlet contained? It contained speeches delivered by the Senator from Illinois, not now in his seat, [Mr. Trumbull,] by the Senator from Nebraska, [Mr. Tipton,] and by myself, denouncing the corruption prevailing in the custom-house at New York, and urging an investigation of abuses. Sir, if such things work against the success of the Administration party in New Hampshire, my impression is that the fault does not lie with those who denounce corruption, but with those who, while they might have rooted it out, have tolerated it. It lies with the sycophants who, by covering up every abuse ever so scandalous, defending every violation of law ever so glaring, have produced in the commonwealth an atmosphere in which corruption can live and grow.
Yes, sir, there is a "senatorial cabal" on this floor. It is the cabal which defeated the St. Domingo scheme. It is the cabal which forced the investigation of corrupt practices in the New York custom-house. It is that cabal which rendered the reformation of those crying abuses at last unavoidable by boldly attacking them. But let me tell the Senate that the speeches of the Senators from Massachusetts and Illinois and Nebraska and my own would never produce the least effect adverse to the Administration upon the voters of New Hampshire, could it not be said in addition that the most scandalous abuse denounced in those speeches, the general-order business in the custom-house at New York, after having been laid open in its whole naked deformity to the authorities a year ago, was yet not been abolished; and that even weeks after the second investigation had exhibited this abuse in a still more glaring light, Leet and Stocking are at this very moment fattening upon the gains taken from the merchants of New York. Those who tolerate abuses are answerable for their effect upon public opinion, and not those who denounce them. Had abuses been abolished when they were exposed, no denunciations need be feared. There is the rub.
Sir, the so-called "senatorial cabal" are accustomed to such attacks as we witness now, and its members are not afraid of them. They have accomplished the investigation in New York through their urgency; they have thus rendered some service to the cause of reform, and now they are endeavoring to repeat the experiment. That is all I desire to say on that part of the Senator's speech.
Now, sir, as to the case before us, I look upon it as one of great importance. It calls for candid and fearless consideration. If we strip it of all the personal animadversions and the flowers of rhetoric in which it has been enveloped as in a cloud of smoke, and if we look at it in its simplicity, we find in it three great questions presented: first, was anything done in connection with the sales of arms effected during the French-German war that was inconsistent with the rule laid down by this Government for its own action -- the rule that no arms should be sold to any known agent of a belligerent Power? Second, was what was done in accordance with the laws of the country? Third, is there in the facts as they stand before us any ground for suspicion of corrupt practices connected with those transactions? The whole subject resolves itself into these three plain questions.
Let us look at the first. A short restatement of the facts in the case will be necessary. The War Department is by law permitted to sell certain kinds of arms and ordnance stores. It did so for a long period of time, and there was nobody finding any fault. Then came the great war in Europe, which surrounded the case with circumstances of extraordinary moment. The President issued his proclamation pledging this great Government to observe the strictest neutrality between the two belligerent Powers. Now, will any Senator pretend that there was no extraordinary precaution necessary in the sale of arms after that proclamation of neutrality had been issued? The rule established by the War Department, that no arms should be sold to any known agent of any of the belligerent parties, was good. Was that rule honestly established? Was it faithfully observed? Was it laid down in good faith? If so, that rule had to mean something.
It will escape the attention of no one that in a case like this during the pendency of a great war abroad, there is a wide difference between the transactions carried on by a private merchant and similar transactions carried on by a Government. A private merchant may sell arms even directly to a belligerent; he only takes upon himself the risk that those arms be captured by the opposite party and be condemned as contraband of war. But a neutral Government has something, far higher to consider than a mere financial venture. A neutral Government has its impartial standing to preserve between the belligerent parties, and in this respect its character and its honor among the nations of the world to maintain; and the honor and the character of a great Government are far more valuable than any number of millions that might be gained by a profitable transaction of trade.
Now, sir, the rule laid down by the War Department for the government of its own action was good. Let us see how it was observed. The Senator from New York yesterday said that he wanted to have more light upon the subject, and I think he ought to have it. What were the operations of the Ordnance Bureau? I do not rely upon hearsay or upon the testimony of irresponsible persons; I rely only upon documentary evidence, upon statements of facts which come in an official way from the Ordnance Bureau and the War Department itself. Then, sir, it will certainly be admitted that my authority is good. The pamphlet I now hold in my hand contains all the letters given to Mr. Remington by private persons and by officers of this Government to accredit him with the world abroad, and to facilitate the settlement of his accounts in France, which had become a little disturbed by suspicions having arisen as to his conduct in this business. In this pamphlet, I find a letter already referred to, a letter from the chief of ordinance, General Dyer, certified to by the Secretary of War under his official seal. The chief of ordnance describes the operations of the War Department at that period in the following manner. The document is printed in the French language; the letters were undoubtedly translated from the English into French by somebody for Mr. Remington, and were then published for his benefit in Paris. I will translate back again what I desire to quote:
"After the end of the rebellion, this Department, with the sanction of Congress, made arrangements for the sale of arms and other ordnance stores, and the firm of E. Remington & Sons was frequently among the purchasers. Between the 1st of July and the middle of October, 1870, very considerable sales were made by this Department to that house, and among them a sale of fifty thousand Springfield rifles, cleaned and repaired, at the price of five dollars each, on the 28th of September, 1870. At that period that class of arms was very little in demand, and the price was considered very low."
It was indeed; for, as I am informed, a few months before that those same arms were sold if I am not mistaken, at the rate of seven dollars apiece.
"The demand for Springfield rifles, however, grew at that period, and when I resumed my functions in the Bureau of Ordnance toward the middle of October, 1870, I found a large number of bids for those arms on the files of the Department, and the bidders very anxious to buy. They were indeed so anxious to get hold of these arms that I ordered that no sales should be made until new bids for Springfield rifles should have been called out by this Department. My recommendation was highly approved, and I immediately called out by letters bids from the principal merchants of arms who were known to this Department.
"Half an hour before the time fixed for the opening of these bids, Mr. Squire, who was known as the agent of the house of Remington & Sons, showed me a dispatch from a member of that house which proved that Messrs. Remington & Sons were the agents of the French Government, and which authorized him [Squire] to buy arms for them. The object of Mr. Squire in showing me this dispatch seemed to me to be to prevent those arms from falling into the hands of persons who would extort from him in reselling them to him a higher price. He seemed very anxious to buy these arms of the Department at as low a price as possible.
"I put off the opening of the bids, and immediately communicated to you that dispatch, and you hastened to instruct me not to accept any bid on the part of Mr. Squire and Remington & Sons for arms. You told me that you would not let arms be sold to an agent of either of the belligerent Powers, France or Prussia. I communicated this decision to Mr. Squire, and I called out new bids for the arms. A few days afterward I sold a large quantity of Springfield rifles on bids which I had called out after the interview I had had with you on this subject."
This, sir, was the modus operandi in which very large lots of arms were sold. Aside from this, this letter ---
Mr. THURMAN. To whom was that letter addressed?
Mr. SCHURZ. It was addressed to the Secretary of War, and it was by the Secretary of War, under the official seal of the Department, sent to Mr. Remington, and then used by him in Paris to facilitate the settlement of his accounts.
Mr. THURMAN. Who was the writer of the letter?
Mr. SCHURZ. The writer of this letter, addressed to the Secretary of War, was General Dyer, chief of ordnance. It is General Dyer's letter officially indorsed by the Secretary of War. This letter contains, besides, several paragraphs praising Mr. Remington very highly, and fully indorsing him his character as a patriot and as a business man.
It appears from this letter that in the first place the question of thirty days' notice as provided for by the statute was entirely ignored; but to be perfectly fair, I will suppose that the same arms had already once been offered at public sale, that a public notice might have been omitted, and that they could afterward be sold at private sale. You will, however, notice that bids were called out by private letters sent around among merchants who were well known to the Department at Washington. Then came the discovery of Squire.
But still another thing intervened. One firm of merchants dealing in arms, the firm of Boker & Co., at New York, the large German arms merchants there, had not been advised. The chief manager of that house learned accidentally that great sales of arms were to be made. He came to Washington. He communicated that fact to the Prussian minister, and out of that circumstance grew those occurrences and conversations to which I referred in my speech the other day. He went to the Department and requested that the sales be postponed. The sales were postponed, as the chief of ordnance informs us in this document, for a few days. Now, sir, since the Senator from New York the other day put forth the assertion that a German house in New York had bought arms for Germany, which arms had been sent to Germany, as I understood him to say ---
Mr. CONKLING. Which way did the Senator understand me, because he now quotes me both ways? I did not say "bought for Germany."
Mr. SCHURZ. That those arms had gone to Germany.
Mr. CONKLING. That is a very different statement.
Mr. SCHURZ. Very well; no matter, that those arms had gone to Germany; whereupon I asked him the question whether be was quite sure as to the truth of what he said, and he replied very emphatically, "Yes, sir." Since that time I have received very reliable information on that subject, and I find that the Senator from New York had no reason to express himself with such certainty.
Mr. CONKLING. Will the Senator allow me a moment?
Mr. SCHURZ. Certainly.
Mr. CONKLING. Does the Senator think he gives a fair statement of my answer to him?
Mr. SCHURZ. I will permit the Senator from New York to make the statement himself, so as to be perfectly fair.
Mr. CONKLING. I repeat the statement I made then, which the Senator has repeated in part, saying "Yes, sir," and adding that I spoke from information which I had received from authority which I did not and could not doubt. Of course I did not undertake to say personally, nor did I indicate that I had any personal knowledge of the subject; but I said, as I repeat now, that I received the statement upon authority which I did not doubt, and I will add further, upon authority which I think could not be mistaken.
Mr. SCHURZ. Well, sir, I think in that case I have better authority than the Senator has, for I am quite sure that that statement was not correct. However, the sales were postponed. As I am reliably informed, that merchant thought the sales were postponed at his instance; but if we may draw a conclusion from the language of the report of General Dyer, it appears just as likely that the sales were postponed in consequence of the discovery that the firm of Remington & Sons had just avowed themselves to their agent Squire as the agents of the French Government, one of the belligerent Powers, and that their bids would therefore not be accepted. There were new calls forbids. The sales were finally made the 20th of October. They were completed at New York at four o'clock p.m. on the 21st of October; and here are the firms to which those arms were sold, according to General Dyer's statement.
"Austin Baldwin & Co., Herman Boker & Co., Schuyler, Hartley & Graham, forty thousand Springfield rifles; one hundred thousand Springfield rifles, fifty thousand Springfield rifles" --
"One hundred thousand Springfield rifles."
I say the sale was made to these firms on the 20th. On the 21st, at four o'clock p.m., the sale was completed and according to a dispatch of the French consul, which appeared in the Place trial, dated on the 22d of October, one day after the sales had been completed the required advance on these arms had already been paid by the French Government, through the French consul at New York. If you want the proof of this, I have it before me.
In the first places as to the completion of the sales General Dyer himself says, in instructing Major Crispin, at New York:
"You are authorized to deliver the arms to the parties above mentioned on the payment of twenty per cent. on the purchase money, &c., on Wednesday, the 21st instant, at four o'clock p.m."
I have here an account of the trial of Place, on the forty-ninth page of which it appears that Place, on the 22d of October, sent a dispatch to the commission of armament at Tours, in which he informs that commission that these same items of arms had been bought by the French Government, and that the necessary payments had been made by him. It must be admitted that business was done promptly, and that if that business was not done by Remington himself, it was done by intermediate parties with a rapidity perfectly marvelous. Does not the question naturally suggest itself whether sales after Squire had discovered himself as a French agent were postponed with a view of giving him an opportunity to make private arrangements with other bidders? I will not charge anything of the kind as having been done, but I would ask every fair-minded man whether the suspicion does not, according to the circumstances, lie very near, considering that if it had been the programme it could scarcely have been carried out with greater promptness?
Mr. CORBETT. I should like to make an inquiry of the Senator from Missouri to see whether I understood him correctly; whether Herman Boker & Co., the German house of which he spoke sold these arms? It is stated that all these arms went to France, and if so, they must have included those purchased by the German house also.
Mr. SCHURZ. I shall give the Senator my impression about that point, too.
Mr. CORBETT. I do not understand that definitely.
Mr. SCHURZ. Well, the arms bought by the firm of Herman Boker & Co. were bought by one of the members of that house who came to Washington as soon as he had accidentally heard that those sales were to be made. The Senator will remember that there has been some talk here of an intention on the part of a New York merchant to pay the advance money on arms in order to prevent them from falling into the hands of the French, with the expectation, that afterward his loss should be made good by the Prussian Government. The Senator will remember, also, it was stated that there was a dispatch sent across the water concerning this matter, and that the German Government would have nothing to do with the transaction. It was in this way, as I understand it, that fifty thousand Springfield muskets passed into the hands of that firm -- a firm which, having no market anywhere else, would hardly have been able to hold the arms, considering that the matter involved a capital of nearly five hundred thousand dollars, or something like that, with no prospect of relief. The arms passed from that firm into the hands of the firm of Schuyler, Hartley & Graham, and at once from Schuyler, Hartley & Graham into the hands of Remington, and were shipped to France.
Mr. CORBETT. Then, from the statement of the Senator it would appear that the German house indirectly furnished to the French Government the arms which one of the members of the firm came on to Washington to prevent being sold to the French Government.
Mr. SCHURZ. I leave the Senator to his own interpretation of the fact, but it may be very questionable whether a house would be able to carry an expense of something like half a million dollars for an indefinite period without any market in which to sell, and without any prospect of reimbursement. At any rate, there is the transaction as it stands: a sale at the War Department after a man's bid had been thrown out on the ground that he was an agent of the French Government; large lots of arms sold; and no sooner had they been sold than within the space of less than two days those arms were in the hands of the French consul.
I repeat, Mr. President, I will not say that the ordnance department was privy to these transactions but no fair-minded man will deny that if there were no other grounds for suspicion, that transaction alone would be sufficient to suggest inquiry.
But now comes the case of Mr. Richardson, "the little lawyer;" and I will promise the Senator of New York, not to speak jestingly of him to-day. His little lawyer shall be treated with the utmost seriousness. What did Mr. Richardson want? This transaction occurred in the month of December. He wanted a large lot of breech-loading arms; he wanted more than forty thousand breech-loading Springfield muskets. I should like to know whether, when the War Department sent around its private letters to the arms merchants of the country, one of those letters was addressed to "Mr. Thomas Richardson, attorney-at-law, Ilion, New York?" The Senator from New York will observe that I am treating the matter very seriously. It would be interesting to learn whether his name, too, had come before the War Department as one of the great dealers in arms and ordnance stores of the country.
The senator from New York yesterday laid great stress upon the circumstance that it was not absolutely necessary for Mr. Richardson, the lawyer, to appear here to transact that business in person, and that the War Department had no interest to inquire at all whether he was a lawyer or an arms merchant. The Senator from New York wants more light, and he ought to have more upon this subject also. No, sir, Mr. Richardson, the lawyer, could not transact his business with the War Department by merely sending in a bid and by depositing a check amounting to twenty per cent. of the purchase-money. Under ordinary circumstances that might have been done; but I think I shall be able to prove to the Senator from New York that in this case it hardly could be done; and why? There was some difficulty about those breech-loaders; there were a great many more wanted by the French Government through Mr. Remington than could be had. Cartridges also were wanted, and cartridges could not immediately be had, and it required an effort to induce the ordnance department to order that they be manufactured. This appears from Mr. Remington's letter, whose veracity the Senator from New York will not be likely to impeach.
Now, sir, there must certainly have been some person to overcome all these great difficulties, by his presence here at Washington; for it was, according to the testimony before us, an intricate and difficult affair. Therefore, in order to overcome the objections of the Department to the sale of as many Springfield breech-loaders as he wanted, the lawyer Richardson would have been bound to come here; and also, in order to have those cartridges manufactured, and to remove the doubts of the War Department in that respect, the presence of the purchasing lawyer was urgently required There was indeed, a personal effort made, and that personal effort appears on record also; but it was not made by lawyer Richardson, whose presence in Washington has never been asserted, although it has by myself been very pointedly put in question; but that personal effort, according to the record, was made by Mr. Remington himself. Here is his letter:
"Regarding the purchase of Springfields, (transformed,) Allen's system, I am sorry to say the greatest number we may hope to get will not, I fear, exceed forty thousand. The Government has never made but about seventy-five thousand all told, and forty thousand is the greatest number they think it prudent to spare."
A piece of knowledge which might be quite natural in Mr. Remington, the great arms merchant, but would be rather surprising in the lawyer of Ilion.
"I may be able to procure, depending upon an exchange of our arms" --
Not Mr. Richardson's, I suppose --
"at some future time, for the number of breech-loading Springfields over and above forty thousand they are willing to let go now.
"This question of an exchange with the very friendly feeling I find existing to aid France, I hope to be able to procure more. Cartridges for these forty thousand will in a great measure require to be made, as the government have but about three million in hand. But the government has consented to allow the requisite number, four hundred for each gun, to be made, and the cartridge-works have had orders given yesterday" --
Mr. Remington could not have been very far away --
"to increase production to the full capacity of works. This question of making the cartridges at the government works was a difficult one to get over. But it is done."
Now, Sir, this is the same Mr. Remington who had about the middle of October been discovered as a French agent by the most authoritative document that could possibly be presented, a dispatch coming from him to his sub-agent Squire; and yet the same Mr. Remington, in the name probably of Mr. Richardson, transacted this business and overcame all the difficulties standing in the way. We have heard much about Mr. Remington's personal honor, and I would be the very last man to cast a slur upon it. The Senator from New York has been telling us that he is a gentleman of very high qualities. Certainly he is then not the "bragging broker" who, in his correspondence with his employers, would make use of expressions to ascribe to himself the credit of a success which really belonged to another.
But this letter contains something else yet -- a significant statement about batteries. We find the same batteries to be those which were sold to Austin, Baldwin & Co., for there is no other item of fifty batteries in this great catalogue except one sold in March, which has not yet been touched in this debate. It appears that at first Mr. Remington had made a contract for one hundred batteries, that the French Government then only wanted fifty, that the deposit of twenty per cent. in advance on the one hundred batteries had already been made, and that the War Department had to be persuaded to let go half of the money that had already been advanced. In this Mr. Remington, according to his letter, succeeded again, and again it cannot be supposed that he was a mere "bragging broker" who would ascribe to himself an exploit which really belonged to Austin Baldwin & Company. It must be confessed that it required considerable familiarity between the ordnance department and Mr. Remington to make the former so exceedingly accommodating to him, consenting to relinquish half of the bargain already concluded by the payment of the advance money.
But, sir, we have some more testimony from Mr. Remington -- not a mere letter, which may be liable to a double interpretation, but testimony which Mr. Remington gave under oath; and I shall now lay that before the Senate. Mr. Remington was a witness in the great Place trial, and in his deposition before the court he expressed himself as follows: I have to translate from the French again:
I did not regard myself as obliged to make advances, [for the French Government;] still less inasmuch as I held myself to pay to the Government of the United States an advance of ten to twenty per cent."
But something still more significant, Mr. Remington was on the witness-stand twice, once in the Place trial and once before the investigating committee of the French National Assembly. Before that committee he declared upon his oath again, after having spoken of certain transactions, "but the Government" -- meaning the French Government -- "insisted, and I was charged by it to treat with the Government of the United States;" and now we come also to the motive which brought Mr. Remington here in December, in order to transact the business connected with the purchase ostensibly made by Mr. Thomas Richardson, the lawyer. He says:
"At that moment, the French Government was so much in need of arms that the commission on armament desired that I should go to America at once for the purpose of seeing whether it would be possible to secure arms of my house, breech-loaders, which had been acquired by the Government of the United States. I left Tours on the 18th of November, and arrived at Now York on the 2d of December."
And it was after this that those interviews and transactions with our War Department took place which are described in the letter of Mr. Remington himself. Now, sir, let us look at the facts. How was the great rule observed that no arms should be sold to an agent of either of the belligerent Powers? What was required for the observance of that rule? My own interpretation of it, as to the extent of its binding force, has appeared in the Globe; it was as follows:
"The Government" --
After having made that declaration and laid down for its own action that rule --
"had to be careful not only not to sell to men whom they knew to be agents of either one or the other of the belligerent parties, but the Government had to satisfy themselves that persons applying for arms were not the agents of either one or the other of the belligerent parties with all the means of information within reach."
This statement was objected to as altogether too extravagant. The Senator from Indiana gave his own interpretation of the rule, and I will read it. He said:
"All that could be required of our government in that connection would be the exercise of what may be called reasonable diligence. If they have reason to believe that the person buying the arms is the agent of the French Government or of any belligerent, then our Government has no right to make the sale."
And further on he said:
"All that we are called upon to know is that he is not the agent of one of the belligerent parties and that we are not selling to a belligerent Government."
Let me bring this home to the Senator from Indiana. "All that we are called upon to know is that the purchaser is not the agent of one of the belligerent parties and that we are not selling to a belligerent Government." Sir, I am perfectly willing to waive my own and to adopt the interpretation of the Senator from Indiana. What, sir, does "reasonable diligence" in a case like this mean? Does it not mean that a Government should satisfy itself by all accessible means of information? Let me draw it still milder and say by all the means of information within easy reach -- taking circumstances into account -- that a buyer is not acting as the agent of one of the belligerent parties? This is not a question of mere legal technicality. This, applied, to a great Government, is a question of good faith; it is a question of political morals. Now, let us see what the moral code of the Senator from Indiana is according to his own statement. He says:
"All we could do would be to take their word; and when we asked them the question, 'Are you buying these arms for France?' they would have said, 'We are buying them for ourselves; we are merchants.' I ask, could we go one step further?"
Then I put a question to the Senator from Indiana in this language:
"The Government of the United States very properly laid down for itself a certain rule of action, which consisted in this, that no arms should be sold to one known to be the agent of one of the belligerent parties. Now, suppose a third party applies for arms, suppose the known agent of the belligerent party, in this case, for instance, Mr. Remington, appears before the ordnance department and transacts there the business of that new applicant, that third party -- I am not going to try to prove that this was here actually the case, but I am merely reasoning upon that supposition -- the known agent of a foreign Government, one of the belligerent parties, acting as the sub-agent of one who applies for arms, would there be proof enough to the Government that has arms for sale that those arms are going into the hands of one of the agents of a belligerent Power?
Now, mark what moral standard the Senator from Indiana applies to a case like this:
"Mr. Morton. As to whether that would even excite a suspicion depends very much on the surrounding circumstances. Now, I will suppose that when Mr. Richardson's proposition came in to buy arms Mr. Remington came as his agent. I will suppose what the Senator does not assert, and says he cannot assert. I will suppose what I do not believe to be the fact ---
"Mr. Schurz. I did not say that I cannot assert it, but simply that I do not assert it.
"Mr. Morton. Well, the Senator says he does not assert it. That is sufficient. I think if he could, he would, because I think the Senator has shown a very creditable degree of willingness to make assertions all through this debate. When he says he cannot assert it, I take it he has no authority for asserting it."
Let me remark here to the Senator from Indiana that I did not say that I could not assert it.
"But now I shall put it on the ground that Remington did go forward as the agent of Richardson, the little country lawyer. What is there remarkable about that?"
It there,indeed nothing remarkable about that to the mind of the Senator from Indiana? Listen again:
"If Mr. Remington had never been known to this Government except as purchasing arms for France. it might have led to the suspicion that Mr. Remington was acting nevertheless for the French Government: but, when you take into consideration that he is an arms merchant, the most extensive perhaps in the world, and has been for fifteen years, and that he has been buying arms of this Government a great while, and that his character as an arms merchant is known, and that he sometimes sells arms to one Government and sometimes sells to another, and that he is selling all the time to different Governments, it would not necessarily lead to the suspicion that he went there as the agent of France."
Now, sir, before heaven and earth I invoke the common sense of the country; when a man like Mr. Remington, who had just been disclosed to this Government as the great arms-buying agent of the French Government, and whose bids had on that account just been thrown out by the War Department, appears as an intermediary for some other person, and that person is merely a lawyer, and not an arms merchant, to make a great purchase, will not every sane man at once jump at the conclusion that he can be there for no other purpose but to fill his own pockets?
The Senator speaks of taking "surrounding circumstances" into consideration. Why, sir, was there not one surrounding circumstance overshadowing all others, namely, that Mr. Remington was the declared agent of France; that he could not buy in his own name, and was therefore necessarily driven to seek a third party under whose name be might buy? And when he now appears under the name of a little lawyer -- let me use that expression once more -- who had never been in the arms business before, had never been known to the trade, is it not most incredible that then our authorities should not even have found a ground for suspicion that he was buying in another's name to fill his own contracts? Why, sir, let the question be submitted to the plainest or to the wisest man in this country, must not their judgment be the same?
"Reasonable diligence!" What does the Senator mean by "reasonable diligence?" The reasonable diligence that was in this case used by the ordnance department consisted certainly in nothing but in most diligently, most frantically, nay, most fanatically closing its eyes against the most convincing circumstances. "Reasonable diligence," according to him, would have required nothing, but when a man came to the department saying, "I am the agent of one of the belligerent Powers," then to say "You cannot buy after such a confession." What a mockery! In my youthful days, when I was in the insurrectionary army of southern Germany, some twenty-odd years ago, I remember one day a very stupid-looking person was hailed by one of our sentinels, "Who goes there?" "Ah," said he, "by your leave I am a secret spy;" and so he was taken prisoner, and upon my soul he was not shot because the fellow was looking too infernally stupid. [Laughter.] But still more stupid would be that agent of a belligerent Power who, having been refused once, would go to the department and say, "Here is Mr. Richardson, and I am his sub-agent; he merely acts for me, and I buy arms in his name." "Reasonable diligence!" Why, sir, such reasonable diligence would have been the most transparent farce every played in connection with the transactions of a great Government.
But, sir, the Senator from New York has still another standard of "reasonable diligence" in maintaining our neutral duties. He said yesterday -- and I was sorry not to find his speech in the Globe to-day, so as to verify my recollection -- that if a person merely sends in his bid and his check for twenty per cent. of the price of the arms, that is enough for the War Department, and the War Department is not obliged to look beyond it. Am I stating the Senator from New York correctly?
Mr. CONKLING. Perhaps correctly enough for the purpose of the Senator; not correctly, however.
Mr. SCHURZ. I shall be obliged to the Senator if he will restate his own position.
Mr. CONKLING. I never suggested that any bidder might send his check; but on the contrary I was so particular as to state that he had better send legal-tender notes; and I said that as there was no color in money, if he sent the money, the name of the buyer was cash, in the language of business.
Mr. SCHURZ. That is it exactly.
Mr. CONKLING. And therefore it was not important to know who he was.
Mr. SCHURZ. Then let me state the proposition of the Senator from New York once more. If a person sends in his bid and with that bid money amounting to twenty per cent. of the price of the arms he wants to buy, then the War Department is under no obligation to look beyond.
Mr. CONKLING. Provided it occurs, in the language of Vattel, in the customary trade of the country, and there be no suspicious circumstances demanding investigation.
Mr. SCHURZ. Ah, sir! I think the Senator from New York is qualifying his position a little more than he did yesterday, for if I understood him yesterday he said "cash is the man who buys."
Mr. CONKLING. So he says to-day.
Mr. SCHURZ. Very well, sir. Now, in times of war abroad when the head of the State has issued a solemn proclamation of neutrality, when care is to be taken that our neutral duties be observed and the good faith of the country is at stake, what then? No matter, "cash" is the man who buys, provided the name of that cash is not exactly wrapped up in the name of a man known to be the agent of one of the belligerent parties. But here comes a man who may be manifestly a mere blind for such an agent, as Richardson was for Remington -- no matter "cash" is the man that buys, and we have to look at nothing but "cash." But, sir, taking the surrounding circumstances into consideration, where is our good faith, where are our neutral duties, where is that reasonable diligence which is to be exercised that no arms go from the Government directly into the hands of an agent of one of the belligerent Powers? No matter, this great American Republic of ours understands and interprets her good faith and her neutral duties only upon a strictly cash principle! Oh, how proudly the standard of our national morality and honor was borne aloft by the Senator from New York yesterday, with a dollar in cash as the coat of arms of this great Republic! How grand and proud!
Seriously speaking, are we sensible, are we honest men? Is this a Government having a character for good faith and honor to maintain? Is this rule of neutral duty as interpreted by the Senator from Indiana and the Senator from New York -- is that the rule of neutral duties they want to be established, not only to be observed by us, but also toward us?
Let me warn the Senate to pause well before committing itself and this Government to a position so absurd, so mean, so utterly dishonorable. Let me tell them that it is never safe for a great nation to play little tricky games and to cover them up with little quibbling technicalities. Sir, placed as we are, let us be careful what we do, for we might have to pay dearly for it.
Sir, we have been accused of making a case here for the German Government. Very far from me any such intention; nor do I think that which we advise will have any such effect. No, if there is a case, it was made up before a word was spoken on this subject in the Senate. Before all Europe stands at this moment printed in large characters the letter of the chief of ordnance, officially indorsed and sanctioned with the seal of the War Department by the Secretary of War, helping Remington in his settlements, after Remington had been thrown out of the War Department, ostensibly at least, as an agent of one of the belligerent Powers.
More than that; Remington himself under oath indicates that while having one contract with the French Government he had another contract with the American Government, as I have just shown. But still more than that, and now I want the Senate to hear and consider what I have to say; you have heard the name of Mr. Jules Le Cesne mentioned here as the president of the commission of armament in France who directed these purchases of arms; Mr. Jules Le Cesne, too, was under oath, and he gave under oath his testimony in the Place trial. There Mr. Jules Le Cesne, the same man with whom Remington corresponded, made the following declaration; the question was upon a certain overcharge of twenty-five cents upon a lot of rifles:
"M. Le Cesne. There was no expense beyond the five percentage allowed to Mr. Remington, since we had treated directly with the Federal Government of the United States, which delivered these arms, without charge, on board the vessels."
Now, sir, I hope, I trust, nay I might say I know that no diplomatic understanding was meant here, and that it merely referred to an understanding which existed through Remington between the armament commission in France and the ordnance department at Washington. But, sir, do you still talk of our making up a case for a foreign Government here? Can you still indulge in the delusion that the German Government are not as well aware of the details of this case as you are, and perhaps even better? When such a declaration under oath stands before the public, what must be the impression that the world abroad receives? If there is any claim that can spring out of a transaction like this, is not anything that has been said here far less calculated to strengthen it than these simple words spoken by the president of the commission of armament of France? What then can we do under the circumstances? What is it our duty to do? What he said there is either true or it is not. In either case we have to investigate it, and to probe the matter to the bottom in order either to show that there is no foundation for this assertion, or if there is a wrong discovered by searching and conscientious inquiry, then to bring the guilty parties to prompt and condign punishment. There is no other course left to us if we want to maintain the good name and the best interests of this country.
Now, sir, I approach the second question which I desire to discuss. It is this: were, in these proceedings, the laws of our own country observed or violated? Let us inquire. I am very far from desiring to occupy myself with trifles such as the thirty days notice which ought, perhaps, to have been given to all willing or able to buy before the arms were sold. There may be some ground upon which the omission can be justified. No, sir; I would even go so far as not to say much more about the matter of the cartridges. I am willing to let the manufacture of these cartridges stand just as it now appears in this debate, and if Senators think they can by any quibbling interpretation of a law make the people of the United States believe that a power to sell useless ordnance stores means also a power to manufacture cartridges for sale, I wish them joy. Sir, has it never occurred to this body that it was of very doubtful legality to sell these breech-loading rifles at all? Let us look at this interesting statute once more:
"That the Secretary of War be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to cause to be sold, after offer at public sale on thirty days' notice, in such manner and at such times and places, at public or private sale, as he may deem most advantageous to the public interest" --
Now, mark you --
"the old cannon, arms, and other ordnance stores now in possession of the War Department, which are damaged or otherwise unsuitable for the United States military service, or for the militia of the United States, and to cause the net proceeds of such sales, after paying all proper expenses of sale and transportation to the place of sale, to be deposited in the Treasury of the United States."
There was a large lot of breech-loading Springfield rifles of the pattern of 1866 in the arsenals of the United States. Considering the question whether they could be sold at all, will it not be well to interpret carefully what "old cannon, arms, and other ordnance stores now unsuitable for the United States military service or for the militia of the United States" means? Is there perhaps any Senator on this floor who can show me a single militia company in the United States that is armed with an arm as good as the Springfield breech-loader of 1866? Go around and look at them, and you will find that almost all of them have the old muzzle-loader, and some of them perhaps even the old smooth-bore musket. The War Department itself was rather doubtful in the matter, and, unless I am greatly misinformed, in the course of this investigation some gentlemen will appear who will testify that they applied for these very identical Springfield breech-loaders and were refused because, as the authorities told them, those Springfield breech-loaders would and could not be sold.
After all this, I assert here that upon the very face of the case, according to the language of the statute, which cannot be misinterpreted, and cannot be quibbled away, the sale of these arms was a breach of the law. If it was not, I should like to ask Senators what the restraining clause in that statute means; and inasmuch as I have had some conversation with my friend from Indiana about that point, I will address my question to him personally. Can he tell me what the restraining clause in this statute means, if it means anything? "Old cannon, arms, and other ordnance stores now in possession of the War Department, which are damaged or otherwise unsuitable for the United States military service." Is there no restraint in it at all?
Mr. MORTON. Will the Senator allow me to ask him a question?
Mr. SCHURZ. Certainly.
Mr. MORTON. I ask the Senator whether if breech-loading arms were manufactured in 1866 according to a certain patent, and afterward an improved patent was adopted by the Government of the United States, with which they intended to arm, our troops and furnish the militia, whether then the old, discarded patent might not properly be described in that statute as unsuitable to the service of the United States?
Mr. SCHURZ. May I answer, Yankee fashion, the Senator with another question?
Mr. MORTON. Any way you please.
Mr. SCHURZ. When the militia of the United States is still armed with muzzle-loaders, and there is a breech-loading Springfield rifle which is good enough to be used on the battle-field against the Prussian needle-gun, as it was in France, would not that be a better arm for the militia than the muzzle-loader?
Mr. EDMUNDS. Yes, but that would be charged to the State, and they could not get the other.
Mr. MORTON. I will answer the question of the Senator from Missouri in the Yankee way that he himself adopts, by another question.
Mr. SCHURZ. Very well.
Mr. MORTON. If there was no purpose to arm the militia at the time at all, which there was none, but the Government was trying to sell old muzzle-loaders, as it was, I ask what force there is in his question? The Government was trying to sell them all.
Mr. SCHURZ. According to the interpretation of the Senator from Indiana, then, this statute ought to read thus: "That the Secretary of War be, and is hereby, authorized and directed to cause to be sold, after offer at public sale on thirty days' notice, in such manner and at such times and places, at public or private sale, as he may deem most advantageous to the public service, all the cannon, arms, and ordnance stores that he may please to sell." Is not that all there remains of it? According to his interpretation. is there any restraining force in this statute at all? And I ask the Senator from Indiana when the chief of ordnance himself declares that arms or ordnance stores are not unfit for the military service or for the militia, but are positively fit, would he say, that he even then can sell those articles? I repeat my question to the Senator from Indiana: is there anything short of a declaration or admission from the Secretary of War himself that the arms are fit for the use of the Army and by the militia that would restrain the War Department in selling arms at all under this statute?
Mr. MORTON. Precisely.
Mr. SCHURZ. What,is it?
Mr. MORTON. The statute expresses that the Secretary of War is authorized to sell such arms as are not suitable to the service of the United States; and here is an old patent, an old form of breech-loader that has been superseded. The Government does not want them; and therefore it comes within the express meaning of this statute, that it is not suitable, because they have a better one.
Mr. SCHURZ. The Senator from Indiana is very busy trying to get away from the points. Now I will show him that the chief of ordnance and the Secretary of War at the time did not think so themselves, for, from the letter given to Mr. Remington, it appears that when he applied for a certain lot of breech-loaders, there being about seventy-five thousand in the arsenals, he could not get forty thousand, because they wanted to keep them. Why? Because they were unsuitable for the Army? If they were unsuitable the War Department should have been glad to get rid of them. But I repeat the question to the Senator from Indiana: can he point out to me according to his interpretation any restraining meaning in this statute? I suppose the Senator from Indiana will be satisfied with nothing but a declaration from the chief of ordnance and the Secretary of War themselves that the arms were suitable to the Army and militia of the United States. Would he be satisfied with that? The Senator from Indiana answers not, and I suspect the reason, for it will be necessary for him to find afterward some new expedient to justify the ordnance. department in selling arms which the chief of ordnance himself had declared to be fit for the military service of the United States. So far has it come, then, that the Senator does not stand up to answer a question as fair as ever a question was put: whether, when the Secretary himself declares an arm fit for the military service, he still has the right to sell it under the statute?
Mr. MORTON. Does the Senator think I am on the stand to be catechized and stand up? He must excuse me from standing up.
Mr. SCHURZ. Certainly.
Mr. MORTON. I am not very well able to do it; but I want to say this, that the Senator understands full well -- if he does not he ought to understand -- that the breech-loaders which were in the possession of the Government, and which were sold, belonged to an old pattern that had been discarded, and they were sold for that very reason. The Government might not have been prepared to sell them all at a particular time until their places were, supplied, but as fast as their places were supplied by the new manufacture, they were selling the old, and it was their interest to do it; and, if the Senator does not know that fact now, he is not posted on the subject at all.
Mr. SCHURZ. It seems to me the Senator is losing himself very diligently in his breech-loaders. The question which I put to him was a very different one; it was this: when the Secretary of War himself declares certain arms fit for the Army and the militia of the United States, whether then still he has a right to sell them under the statute? I repeat the question, and the Senator answers not; he knows well why, because here is the official declaration ---
Mr. MORTON. Mr. President, there is some limit to courtesy. The Senator, because I do not answer every interrogation he puts to me, assumes that I cannot do it. He is making a speech; I do not want to interrupt him any more than I can help. I made a speech the other day, and the Senator interrupted me forty-six times, by count, as shown in the Globe. Now, I will promise the Senator this: I will promise the Senator that upon the conclusion of his speech, if I can get the floor, I will answer his questions, and I will answer something more. I will tell him the whole truth upon certain other topics. He has entitled himself to it, and he shall have it.
Mr. SCHURZ. Sir, if one tenth part of the time which the Senator has now employed in explaining something else had been employed by him in answering yes or no to my question, he would have served the purpose much better; for I am now going to show the Senator that the chief of ordnance reports to the Secretary of War himself, and that this report is sanctioned by the Secretary of War with his official seal, that arms and ordnance stores were sold which by themselves were declared fit for the Army and for the militia of the United States. Here, sir, is General Dyer's letter to General Belknap, which reads as follows, (I again translate back from the French volume before me:)
"In reply to your questions about the quality of the ordnance stores sold by this Department, I have to say that all the ordnance stores sold as good and fit for service were considered so, and fit to be used. They were so marked down on the inventory books of the arsenals, and so considered as good for service by the commandants of those arsenals.
"Those ordnance stores were considered fit to be issued to our troops.
"The cartridges which were sold were duly inspected after they had been received by the United States" --
Meaning from the factories --
"and they were considered as good for the service and fit to be distributed among the troops when they were sold."
And this is done under a statute which provides --
"That the Secretary of War be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to cause to be sold the old cannon, arms. and other ordnance stores now in possession of the War Department, which are damaged or otherwise unsuited for the United States military service, or for the militia of the United States."
Well, sir, after this I think I may feel myself authorized to charge here before the Senate and the country a flagrant and manifest breach of law on the showing of the chief of ordnance sanctioned with the official seal of the War Department himself, and if there is any way to justify that, I shall look for it with a certain degree of curiosity.
But may I ask the Senator what will become of the popular respect for the laws if we recklessly quibble away their meaning? May I ask the Senator how he can expect the officers of the Government to obey the laws if they learn from the Senate of the United States that those laws have no binding force for them? I ask him what will become of constitutional government in this country if we tell the executive power that it can trample upon the laws just as it pleases, and that, like Cśsar Augustus, it can always rely upon an obedient and submissive senate? Let us well pause before we go further in this direction, for here there is something higher at stake than cartridges or cash.
And now I will proceed to the third question to be discussed: is there in these facts any reason to be found to justify suspicion as to the corrupt characters of these transactions? Let me repeat what I said at the close of my remarks the other day. It must have been manifest at the time when these sales took place, to every sane mind, how our international relations were risked; how the good will and friendship of a large, estimable, and patriotic class of our population were jeopardized, both things more valuable than any financial gain realized from any sale of arms -- arms which might have been disposed of some time or other almost with equal profit. That alone, as I said then, forced upon my mind a suspicion that there was a job at the bottom of these proceedings, and I will repeat that then I had absolutely no knowledge of the things we have been discussing here to-day.
But more, look now at the letter of General Dyer, so anxious to insure Remington's success in settling his accounts, accounts growing out of the very transactions for which he had ostensibly been driven out of the War Department; so anxious, indeed, to aid him in the settlement that he himself confesses to a flagrant violation of the law. Is there no ground for suspicion? I might not say another word about the differences that are found between the sums paid by France and received by the United States, While Remington's commission is well known to all; but take all these circumstances together, the jeopardizing of our international relations, the risking of internal good will and feeling, this flagrant violation of the law openly confessed to aid a man who had done what the War Department ostensibly abhorred, and then added to these the mysterious disappearance of large sums of money, and I ask you again, is there still any one who would assert that in this whole case there is no ground for suspicion that would justify the most searching inquiry?
Ah, sir, I believe it is keenly enough felt all over this Senate; and it is for this reason, let me say, that such violent efforts are made to divert the minds of the Senate and the people from the true question at issue, and as the Senator from Indiana has just promised us, he is going to follow up that strategy. Is not the reason obvious? A curious spectacle indeed, sir! The Senator from Massachusetts charged with being a French claim agent or with having no other object in view than to work into the hands of a French claim agent! Sir, is not that on its very face absurd, ridiculous, monstrous? The Senator from Iowa told us the other day, and his remarks on that point were most sensible, that if France has a claim against any individual in the United States there are the courts; in the courts better evidence can be elicited than by a committee of investigation, because the courts have better means to elicit it; the courts are the only place where redress can be had. And now it is charged at the same time that a man like the Senator from Massachusetts should give himself up as the menial instrument of a French claim agent to advance his business here, through transactions in the Senate of the United States, where no real redress can be found.
I ask again, sir, is it not most absurd, most ridiculous? But not only that, it is a most humiliating spectacle. Here are Senators standing up to ferret out corruption and violation of our laws, and if they exist to have the guilty parties brought to punishment. We have reason to be proud of the purpose we are pursuing. I repel with utter contempt the imputation that the Senator from Massachusetts or myself should be in the service of any individual to deprive American merchants of their profits.
But the Senator from Indiana and the Senator from New York resort in their -- how shall I call it? -- distress, to other insinuations no less flimsy. They pretend that we are making up a case for Germany, and yet the very same Senator from Indiana has been so triumphantly telling us here that Bismarck did not care a farthing about this whole thing; that he is laughing it out of the way, and jokingly remarking he could pick up these arms cheaper on the banks of the Loire. And yet this same mirthful statesman, according to the Senators from New York and Indiana, is to be stirred up by what we are here doing to set up claims against the United States! If he desired to do so would he not have done so long ago, upon the evidence known to all Europe? But, sir, another insinuation is thrown out which might be called rather startling, and coming as it does from two Senators of the United States in the solemn deliberations of this body, I cannot pass it by in silence. It is that discoveries made here might, injuriously to us, affect the mind of the German Government which is to preside in the high court of arbitration called to decide our disputes with England concerning the island of San Juan. Did the Senator from Indiana and the Senator from New York really know what they were saying? Did they know that they were throwing out a most foul and insulting imputation against a great Government with whom we live on terms of friendship? That they were charging that foreign Government, which is to occupy the exalted position of arbiter in an important international dispute, with being accessible to mean, miserable, personal motives? Sir, if there is an insult offered to the German Government, it is far more by the insinuation of these Senators than by all the arms we have sold.
Again, sir, it is asserted that this investigation is rather an unpatriotic proceedings because it might prejudice our chances as to the Alabama claims before the high court of arbitration at Geneva. Pardon me; this assertion appears to me still more flimsy than those which preceded it. Do we not know, have I not shown you here by quotations from official documents and the European press, that all the aggravating circumstances surrounding this case are already before the world? Is there anything disadvantageous to us that can possibly be added to the testimony of the chief of the commission of armament of France, Mr. Le Cesne, who openly under oath declares that he had an engagement with the Government of the United States by virtue of which the arms were to be delivered free of charge on board the vessels? Do you indulge in the childish delusion that British statesmen have not read these documents, that they are ignorant of these assertions, and that if any inferences are to be drawn from them, they have been drawn long ago and are understood on the other side of the Atlantic as well as they are here? Let me tell you, sir, if we want the American case prejudiced, seriously prejudiced, then let this case remain just as it stands; then show a disinclination to investigate it or even to make this investigation so as to justify the suspicion abroad as to its character.
But, sir, if you desire to set this Republic right before the world, there is but one course that remains to you. Show by a conscientious and searching inquiry that the Government of the United States has done nothing deserving of censure; or, if the investigation does prove that duty and law have been violated, then show yourself fair and honest enough to disavow frankly by the legislative branch of the Government the mischief wrought by executive officers. There is no other alternative. That is the only way in which, as the matter now stands, our position can be fully protected, and it is a bold, manly, and honest way; it is the only course worthy of this great Republic. Those who by small quibbles try to conceal what is visible to the whole world, or by little technicalities to justify that which, if it exists, is clearly wrong, those are the men who endanger the interests and who compromise the good name of this country. It is only by brave, open, honest action that we can save both, and therefore I am not afraid to stand upon the floor of the American Senate demanding inquiry and denouncing what is wrong; for I remember well, as you must remember it, that Cobden and Bright, when boldly denouncing in the British Parliament the course that was pursued by the Government, and describing the consequences that would follow a violation of neutral duties, were far better patriots than those who let the Alabama sail. They, too, were denounced for the bold words they spoke; but would not England have avoided the perplexing difficulties still causing so much anxiety, would not England now stand in a far more enviable position before the world had their prudent and patriotic advice been heeded? Let us learn from their great example that fearless honesty is of all policies the safest.
Mr. President, I must now allude to a matter which is of a somewhat painful nature. It is the amendment to this resolution brought forward by the Senator from New York. It reads as follows:
And that said committee also inquire and report whether any member of the Senate, or any other American citizen, is or has been in communication or collusion with the Government or authorities of France, or with any emissary or spy thereof, in reference to the said matters.
I am free to confess that I regret the introduction of this amendment. I regret it for the gentleman who introduced it. First, let me tell the Senator that as he and the Senator from Indiana have already said things insulting to the Government of Germany, so he in this amendment puts forth a thing scarcely less insulting to the Government of France. It cannot be unknown to the Senator that spies are used by respectable Governments only in times of war, and that when we accuse a Government of sending into a friendly country spies in time of peace, it may well be taken as a charge severely reflecting upon its character. I would for this reason suggest to the Senator from New York the withdrawal of the word "spy."
But, sir, the meaning and purpose of the amendment are easily understood. Nobody can entertain any doubt as to the men to whom it points. It points to the Senator from Massachusetts, [Mr. Sumner;] it points to me; and it points to the Marquis de Chambrun, whose name has repeatedly been mentioned in this debate. It suggests that collusion may have taken place between these two Senators and the agent of a foreign Power; undoubtedly, if the word had any meaning at all, collusion of an improper nature and for improper purposes. If the amendment has any meaning, it must have this.
Now, sir, I shall vote for this amendment, and I will give Senators a piece of evidence in advance. This evidence will facilitate their understanding of this proposition.
As to the French emissary and spy alluded to in this resolution, the Marquis de Chambrun, I am well acquainted with him. He is a member of one of those old French families who are known and remarkable less by their riches than by the culture of their minds and their honorable ambition. In fact, he is an excellent representative member of that class; for knowing him well, as I do, I may say that I have but seldom in my life met a man of more cultured mind and of more varied information in many branches of knowledge than he possesses. He is not, as the opprobrious terms applied to him by the Senator from New York might lead you to believe, an adventurer. His social position in France is a most honorable one. I think the name of Alexis de Tocqueville is well known in this country. He is that great French writer whose philosophical mind has shed more light upon the nature and character of our institutions than you will find in the writings of any other author living or dead. It is a somewhat noteworthy circumstance that the Marquis de Chambrun was one of the intimate friends, I might say one of the favorites, of this same Alexis de Tocqueville; so much so, indeed, that in what I might call his dying letter, de Tocqueville referred in a most interesting manner to the marriage which had been contemplated for the Marquis de Chambrun by the de Tocqueville family, and which was shortly before his death consummated. It was the marriage of Mademoiselle de Corcelles with the Marquis de Chambrun. The letter, which forms part of the collection I now hold in my hand, speaks of this marriage as "our affair," and a note appended to the letter states that "de Tocqueville could properly call it 'our affair,' for his high estimation of M. de Chambrun made him anxiously forward this match. Its conclusion was one of his last pleasures."
The other party to this marriage, Mademoiselle de Corcelles, now the Marquise de Chambrun, is the great granddaughter of La Fayette whose name is no less known and highly revered in this country.
So, sir, it would appear that this gentleman is, after all, not a waif that was accidentally thrown upon our shores, not a mean, small adventurer, who came here perhaps for the purpose of taking money out of other people's pockets by doubtful means to put it into his own. And even at this very moment some of the gentlemen whom we have sent to the high court of arbitration at Geneva are introducing themselves to the minister of foreign affairs of the French republic, M. de Remusat, who is connected in close family alliance with the Marquis de Chambrun, with letters of recommendation from the same gentleman who yesterday was denounced on this floor as a mean claims agent and a spy.
Sir, there is the "spy" of the Senator from New York. Seven years ago the Marquis de Chambrun came to this country, then intrusted by his Government with the mission of studying the American tariff and of aiding the French legation here in business connected with that subject. Afterward his Government gave him the office of legal counsel to the French legation, and as such he is acting now.
I say I have known him long, making his acquaintance in the year 1865. It always was a pleasant one, and I may say that in the long intercourse of years that acquaintance has ripened into friendship founded upon mutual esteem. So much have I to say about the Marquis de Chambrun.
And now, sir, let me add that the Marquis de Chambrun was not the man who gave me that information about this case which made it appear to my mind that an investigation was necessary.
Mr. SUMNER. Nor to me either.
Mr. SCHURZ. Nor, as the Senator from Massachusetts says, to him either. Nor was it any other Frenchman or foreigner. I received that information shortly before Christmas from an American citizen of most respectable standing; and I will inform the Senator from New York, furthermore, that having thus received certain knowledge which forced the impression upon my mind that there was something rotten in this affair, I did ask the Marquis de Chambrun, of whom I learned quite accidentally that he knew something about the matter, why he had not spoken of it to me before. This was not months, but a very few weeks ago, and then, sir, deeming it necessary that violations of law and corrupt practices in this Government should be inquired into, I not only considered it my right, but my duty to obtain information wherever I could get it, and I received such information from him as he was willing to give me.
And now let me tell the Senator from New York also what that information was. The only thing about this whole business that I ever received from the Marquis de Chambrun, not already published and open to the eyes of the world, in newspapers and official documents, was that letter of the Secretary of War to the Secretary of State which figures in the preamble to the resolution before us. When he spoke to me about it, I asked him how he could divulge that letter, and his reply was -- and knowing the man I think it will appear so -- that the letter was, read to him by the Secretary of War in the presence of several gentlemen, and when, the next day, he asked him whether he did not consider it a confidential document, the Secretary of War said emphatically he did not, and wanted to have it spread broadcast before the country. This is my piece of evidence. There you have it all. I give it willingly before the committee of investigation can ask for it.
But what, is the spirit of this amendment? I have already said that I regretted it for the sake of the gentleman who had introduced it. I do not know that I can make myself intelligible to his mind or to his moral feeling except in one way: suppose I had introduced an amendment to this resolution providing that the committee should inquire also whether or not all those who had given Mr. Remington letters of introduction to parties in France had been actuated by corrupt motives? Does the Senator know why I did not do it? Because I considered it infinitely beneath me. [Applause in the galleries.]
Mr. CONKLING. If the Senator will allow me, the Senator from New York has a very different reason from that for knowing why the Senator did not introduce it, and that reason leads me to inquire of the Senator whether he means to state or to intimate that I ever gave Mr. Remington a letter of introduction to France?
And while the Senator is looking for the material to answer my question, I beg leave to remind him that he saw fit on a recent occasion in this body to assert that I had indorsed a letter written by the Secretary of War, which led me to acquaint him with the fact that I had done no such thing, but had simply addressed to Mr. Remington himself a note, the purport of which I stated. If, founding his remark upon that statement, the Senator means to say that I gave a note of introduction to France, as he expresses it, I should be glad to know that.
Mr. SCHURZ. Now let me declare to the Senator that if he had given to Mr. Remington a note, and that note were now before me, stating that he had investigated all his transactions, and that he would be very glad if the French Government would settle them, and that he took great interest in the case, I should not have been the man to move that amendment to this resolution.
Mr. CONKLING. Then, Mr. President, allow me to inquire of the Senator why was he the man, and the only man, who dragged in the fact, of no earthly importance, that he had been told that I had written a letter to Mr. Remington, or for Mr. Remington, or relating to Mr. Remington, when he knew, if he knew anything about it, that the note was nothing but the note of a neighbor addressed to neighbor in common justice and fair play.
Mr. SCHURZ. Does, not the Senator from New York remember that when I spoke of this I repeated time and again, of course this is nothing but a mere act of neighborly friendship, which was perfectly right and proper?
Mr. CONKLING. No, Mr. President, if the Senator appeals to me, I do not know that, nor does the Globe show it. I know that the Senator for some purpose dragged in here the allegation that I had indorsed the letter of the Secretary of War, and I know that I acquainted him with the fact as it was; and although I do not know, I believe that the Senator means, by his intimation of a moment ago, to signify to those who hear him that I wrote for Mr. Remington a letter of introduction to France, as he chose to phrase it.
Mr. SCHURZ. I am looking for the words I used. If the Senator cannot find them in the Globe, I am sure everybody else can.
Mr. CONKLING. The place in the Globe where he stated over and over again, as I understood him, the propriety of my act? I should like to see that place in the Globe, or hear something read from it.
Mr. SCHURZ. Here it is:
"Certainly I would not find fault with the Senator from New York for giving him the letter as an act of friendship."
Will that do?
Mr. CONKLING. It will not do to support the Senator's allegations if that is his question, which was that he stated "over and over again" that what the Senator from New York had done was a proper act. Now he reads from the Globe the condescending statement that he would find no fault with the Senator from New York for doing so and so.
Mr. SCHURZ. Will the Senator credit me when I say that I will search up for him the places in which I spoke of it, not to detain the Senate any longer by looking at the Globe? The impression which I wanted to convey to his mind was simply this: that if his letter had been couched in language very different from that which I have now before me, I should have considered it beneath myself to throw out an insinuation of an offensive kind against him, or even to move an amendment to this resolution pointedly charging Senators on this floor with improper collusion.
Mr. CONKLING. Will the Senator allow me a moment?
Mr. SCHURZ. Yes, sir.
Mr. CONKLING. The Senator has chosen for some purpose of his own to assume that the amendment is aimed at three persons, and three alone: himself, his friend from Massachusetts, and the Marquis de Chambrun. Without interrupting him at length, I beg to say to him that I have no occasion at all for the regret which he expresses on my account for the introduction of this amendment. He has promised me his support for it. I assure him that I shall stand by it, and if after it is adopted I have any other power over it, I shall make it instrumental for the purpose for which it was intended, which is, not to fasten in any unfriendly spirit upon any or all of the three persons the Senator has named any imputation, but to ascertain with regard to all men, (including those three men, I have no hesitation in saying,) whether in truth by indirect, illicit, unusual, irregular means this proceeding has been trumped up or brought out of that which the statute read yesterday and good morals and convenience also, condemn as irregular correspondence and communication between American citizens and foreign agents.
One other word, and I have done. In drawing the amendment I had not the statute before me, nor had I seen it for a long time. I drew the amendment from a faded memory of the act of 1799. If the honorable Senator finds in it offense of phrase, before we vote upon it I shall be very glad to have him reduce it, or to reduce it myself, to those proportions and to that scope which will properly embrace the inquiry and the information I seek.
Mr. SCHURZ. Ah, yes, sir. I have no doubt that what the Senator intimated to us just now is perfectly true. He is in earnest in this matter.
Mr. CONKLING. No doubt of it.
Mr. SCHURZ. I have never doubted it. It looks like it. [Laughter.] There is one peculiar feature about this matter, however, to which I desire to call the attention of the Senate. The Senator has referred to on old statute of 1799 which he yesterday held up before our eyes. What is that statute? It threatens with imprisonment and fine those who are citizens of the United States and have any communication or correspondence with any agent of a foreign Government by which either the measures of the Government of the United States are defeated or an influence is exercised upon the action of that foreign Government.
Sir, this statute held up before our eyes in this case is a most glorious thing. Here stand two American Senators, Senators not entirely unknown to the country, Senators whose record is not entirely devoid of patriotism and service, Senators whose only aim and end is to investigate the abuses of the Government and violations of the laws. Ah, sir, witness this significant spectacle! These Senators are met by one of the spokesmen of the Administration, flourishing the statute in his hands, threatening them with fine and imprisonment! Indeed a most glorious spectacle! Let it be known in every nook and corner of this land, let the news go forth all over the vast boundaries of this Republic, that he who is in earnest, setting his face against those in power with fearless purpose to detect fraud, to punish violations of the law, has by "the powers that be" opened to him the prospect of a dungeon! Why, sir, I never thought that the Administration was in a condition quite so desperate as that. [Laughter.] Things are indeed developing very fast. How long will it be when you cannot took for testimony even against Leet and Stocking, the Knights of the General Order, without having some statute dug up that will punish you for conspiracy? Glorious!
But, sir, if the Senator from New York thinks that he can in this way throw fear into my soul, he will easily discover that he is mistaken. On the paths of duty that I have walked I have seen men much more dangerous than he; and before a thousand of them my heart would not quail. Ay, sir, I will vote for his amendment, vote for it with all the scorn which it deserves.
Another word to the Senators from Indiana and New York. For want of better argument they have been telling us that this resolution is meant to affect the German vote. I think the Senator from Indiana knows well that if it had been desired to affect the German vote at a certain juncture when feeling ran very high, and when it would not have required much to set it in fiercer flames, and when I used every influence in my power, little as it was, to have those sales of arms stopped and to have at the same time that feeling soothed, he knows very well that if the German vote was affected, it was by the things that were done and not by any agitation. Had I known then what I know now about this business, (and I am free to say that then I knew nothing but that arms were sold and went, cargo after cargo, to France,) I might indeed have acted differently.
The two Senators are praising the Germans very highly -- not too highly, indeed. He who listened to them on Friday and yesterday might have formed the, conclusion that they were decidedly "sweet" on the German-American citizens. [Laughter.] I think their sweetness would have been much more appreciable had those two Senators, than whom there are no others more influential with this Administration, gone at the time when the arms were sold and used their burning eloquence and their powerful efforts to have the mischief stopped; for their power was far greater than my own and that of the Senator from Massachusetts, who were then considered as being in opposition to the Administration. Yes, sir, they are rather sweet on the Germans, although certainly not too much so. They say that the Germans are a liberty-loving, intelligent, patriotic people, all of which is true. The German-Americans love liberty; they are devoted to republican principles; but let me tell Senators there is another thing to which they are no less devoted, and that is honest government. Both Senators have taken the trouble to inform this body that no man in this country owns the German-born citizens of this Republic. That is most certainly true, and I am proud of it, for I am one of them; and I am sure nobody owns me. [Laughter.]
No, sir, no man owns the German-American citizens of this country. No politician owns them, no Senator does; not even the President of the United States, but least of all are the Germans of this country owned by that class of politicians who desperately cling to the skirt of power through whatever mire that skirt may be trailed. [Applause in the galleries.] Least of all do they belong to that class of politicians who are ready to cover up any abuse, to justify any wrong, when the discovery, however useful to the public interest, might displease the Administration or injure the party. Least of all do they belong to those politicians who will sacrifice truth and right, and justice, and honor, and public interest to the mere advantage of a party.
No, sir, the Germans do not belong to anybody, and I am proud to say so. As one man they fought the robber-nest of Tammany in New York, and I trust you will find them in solid array fighting every Tammany, small or great, wherever and on whatever side they may find it.
An attempt has again been made to dismiss this whole inquiry by a crack of the party whip. Methinks those who make that attempt grievously mistake the spirit of the times. That popular voice which demands honest and pure government speaks far louder than the crack of any party whip. The American people have heard that crack before. They heard it at the commencement of this session, when what the Senator from New York was yesterday pleased to call "the senatorial cabal" stood up here demanding an investigation into the abuses of the Government met with the reply that there were no wrongs to be righted, and those who insisted upon it were mere mischievous plotters and base traitors to party and country. That was the cry; and yet when the inquiry was had, and only a corner of that vail was lifted which covers the public service, the reeking odor of corruption tortured the very nostrils of the nation. Do you think the people have forgotten it? They remember very well that iniquity was exposed and the door was opened to reform because there were some men who stood not in fear of the crack of the party whip.
And now we hear this storm of cant and denunciation again. Gentlemen, do not deceive yourselves. The eyes and the ears of the people are open and they have heard and seen already much which they will remember. No party cry will much longer befog their senses and stupefy their minds. You may try to throw suspicion upon the motives of those who attack corruption, but it will be in vain. The people understand that when motives are called into question, the motives of those who are serving as the henchmen of power are no less open to doubt than the motives of men who spurn to seek its favors at the expense of an honorable independence and their convictions of duty. Let me tell gentlemen that we knew the road to patronage just as well as others; we did not walk it sacrificing that which was dearer to us.
Sir, the crack of the party whip has lost its power in these days of ours. Mere party cant lies stale and nauseating upon the stomach of the people. If you think that the movement which is now growing all over this land is a mere plot of politicians, you will soon discover your mistake. It is a new awakening of the public conscience. It is the reaction against the easy political morals and the spirit of jobbery which have grown and been developed in times of war and of great political excitement. It is an earnest uprising for an honest and pure government. You cannot repel that with party discipline; you cannot baffle it with penal statutes. It may be a mere commotion to-day; undertake to resist it, and you will find it a great moral political revolution to-morrow. Whatever others may do, I have taken my lot. It is to this cause that my heart is earnestly devoted, and with this cause I will stand or fall.