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24–30 September 1876 • Hartford, Conn.
(Hartford Courant, 2 October 1876: UCCL 01371)
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Mr. S. L. Clemens, who presided at the Allyn hall meeting Saturday night, and made a capital little introductory speech about the civil service,1 replied not long ago to the letter from a friend, asking him why he believed so strongly in Hayes, that the two letters of acceptance photographed the souls of Tilden and Hayes. One could read those letters and know the two men as well as he could know them by reading their personal histories in detail; they revealed that one was a shuffler, and the other a square man.2 And he continued:—

We like men who talk straight out in plain unmistakable language—like Hayes. We not only know that such a man means something, but we know what he does mean. We have natural [&] justifiable distrust of talky men who make a sounding [&] ostentatious pretense of saying a thing [&] yet don’t say it after all—men who hide a mustard-seed of an idea in a kaleidoscope of words, so that the more you turn the thing the more you can’t quite capture that elusive little idea, because it always takes refuge, just in time, behind a new [&] bewitching rainbow-explosion of fine language—men like Mr. Tilden, for instance. If Mr. Hayes wanted to say “Accidents will happen in even the best regulated families,” he would say “Accidents will happen in even the best regulated families,” [&] you would know what he meant; but Mr. Tilden would probably say:—“It is believed by many honest [&] right-feeling, but possibly mistaken men—though more or less might be weightily said both for [&] against the proposition—that infelicitous conjunctions of cause [&] effect will eventuate even in fireside circles accustomed to the most exact, exhaustive, elaborate, [&] usufruct systems of domestic dominion.” Then you would jump to the conclusion that you had learned how he stood on that subject, but as soon as you tried to pen him there you would find that he had blasted out Hell Gate parentheses here [&] there that a fleet of political seventy-fours3 could sail through without scratching their keels, when necessity required.

Explanatory Notes | Textual Commentary

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1 A Hartford rally for Rutherford B. Hayes was held on Saturday, 30 September 1876. It began with a torchlight procession that brought Clemens and Joseph R. Hawley, editor in chief of the Hartford Courant and since 1872 a Republican congressman from Connecticut, to Allyn Hall. There Clemens, as presiding officer of the rally, made the following speech (SLC 1876):

Ladies and Gentlemen:—I feel very greatly honored in being chosen to preside at this meeting. This employment is new to me. I never have taken any part in a political canvass before, except to vote. The tribe of which I am the humblest member—the literary tribe—is one which is not given to bothering about politics; but there are times when the strangest departures are justifiable—and such a season, I take it, is the present canvass. Some one asked me the other day, why it was that nearly all the people who write books and magazines had lately come to the front and proclaimed their political preference, since such a thing had probably never occurred before in America; and why it was that almost all of this strange, new band of volunteers marched under the banner of Hayes and Wheeler. I think these people have come to the front mainly because they think they see at last a chance to make this government a good government; because they think they see a chance to institute an honest and sensible system of civil service, which shall so amply prove its worth and worthiness that no succeeding president can ever venture to put his foot upon it. Our present civil system, born of General Jackson and the democratic party, is so idiotic, so contemptible, so grotesque, that it would make the very savages of Dahomey jeer and the very god of solemnity laugh.

We will not hire a blacksmith who never lifted a sledge; we will not hire a school teacher who does not know the alphabet; we will not have a man about us in our business life—in any walk of it, low or high—unless he has served an apprenticeship, and can prove that he is capable of doing the work he offers to do; we even require a plumber to know something (Laughter, and a pause by the speaker) about his business (More laughter); that he shall at least know which side of a caretgascaret pipe is the inside (Shouts); but when you come to our civil service we serenely fill great numbers of our minor public offices with ignoramuses; we put the vast business of a custom house in the hands of a flathead who does not know a bill of lading from a transit of Venus (laughter and a pause)—never having heard of either of them before (laughter); under a treasury appointment we pour out oceans of money, and accompanying statistics, through the hands and brain of an ignorant villager who never before could wrestle with a two-weeks’ wash-bill without getting thrown. [Laughter.] Under our consular system we send creatures all over the world who speak no language but their own, and even when it comes to that go wading all their days through the blood of murdered tenses, and flourishing the scalps of mutilated parts of speech. When forced to it we order home a foreign ambassador who is frescoed all over with—with—indiscreetnesscaretescaret, but we immediately send one in his place whose moral ceiling has a perceptible shady tint to it. And then he brays when we supposed he was going to roar.

We carefully train and educate our naval officers and military men, and we ripen and perfect their capacities through long service and experience, and keep hold of these excellent servants through a just system of promotion. This is exactly what we hope to do with our civil service under Mr. Hayes. (Applause.) We hope and expect to sever that service as utterly from politics as is the naval and military service. And we hope to make it as respectable, too. We hope to make worth and capacity the sole requirements in the civil service, in place of the amount of party dirty work the candidate has done.

By the time General Hawley has finished his speech I think you will know why we, in this matter, put our trust in Hayes, in preference to any other man.

I am not going to say anything about our candidates for state offices, because you know them, honor them, and will vote for them. But General Hawley (applause) being comparatively a stranger, I will say a single word in commendation of him, and it will furnish one of the many reasons why I am going to vote for him for Congress. I ask you to look seriously and thoughtfully at just one almost incredible fact. General Hawley in his official capacity as President of the Centennial commission, has done one thing which you may not have heard commented on, and yet it is one of the most astounding performances of this decade—an act almost impossible, perhaps, to any other public officer in this nation. General Hawley has taken as high as a hundred and twenty-one thousand dollars gate-money at the Centennial in a single day—(Pause and applause)—and never stole a cent of it! (Laughter and loud cheers.) (“Just Before the Battle,” Hartford Evening Post, 2 Oct 76, 2, clipping in Scrapbook 8:25–26, CU-MARK)

Clemens fixed two corruptions in the Evening Post text when preserving it in his scrapbook, represented here as insertions (see also 11 Oct 76 to Howells). Hawley’s speech was a call for the election of Hayes. Hayes and his vice-presidential running mate, William A. Wheeler (1819–87), were victorious in the disputed election of 7 November 1876, but Hawley lost his bid for re-election to Congress by 139 votes (Hartford Courant: “Election To-Day,” 7 Nov 76, 2; “Official Vote of Connecticut, ” 23 Nov 76, 2).

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2 Tilden’s 31 July letter accepting the Democratic presidential nomination was more than three times as long as Hayes’s letter accepting the Republican nomination. Both letters are transcribed in 1876 Nominations for President.

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3 Warships carrying seventy-four guns.



glyphglyphCopy-text:glyph“Political Notes and Comments,” Hartford Courant, 2 October 1876, 2.

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