WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 1868
The black cat under the President's table gives us a periodical start concerning Cabinet changes. Latterly the oft told tale has been reproduced, spiced with a tangible show of names and wherefores. Banks is to be invested with the sword that Grant recently surrendered to Stanton, and the representatives of the wool-dyed democracy are to hand in the names of the successors of Seward, McCulloch, Browning and Randall. Banks is the only radical to be admitted into the confidential circle, and the concession is to be made in deference to the action of the Senate in reinstating Stanton. This comfortable arrangement is to be consummated soon, in a way that will be satisfactory to Banks, convenient to the President and agreeable to the Senate. The military portfolio in the hands of Banks; the President, the Supreme Court and Congress in the hands of Grant, the balance of the Cabinet will be of no account, except so far as they can make themselves useful in keeping their desks clear and in paying the regular Tuesday and Friday afternoon visits to the White House.
A serious consideration of this question is suggestive of some difficulties in the way of a reorganization of the Executive Department. Cabinet offices are places that the possessors are not disposed to vacate on the "politest hint" that such a course would be agreeable. The Stanton case demonstrates this, besides exposing an elongated and somewhat troublesome extremity. Should the President attempt to start Randall, Browning and the rest they would be just as loath to go as was Stanton; and at this particular juncture, after they have all certified to the correctness of the President's representation of Grant's violation of his compact, it would be almost rude to propose a separation.
In the present state of affairs it may not be a matter of so much consequence to the President who composes his Cabinet as it would if Congress had left him in the enjoyment of a little more freedom. Mr. Harlan, as Secretary of the Interior, deferred to the President's wishes even with reference to appointments over which he had control, and this after they had parted company politically. The same may be said of Governor Dennison. As much cannot be said with accuracy of his successors. Mr. Harlan represented an influential constituency who elected him to the Senate, and the ex-Postmaster General was the expectant of similar honors until, in the expressive language of Benjamin Wade, "the nigger licked us." In choosing the successors of these gentlemen the question is, what amount of strength do they represent in the political world that is available in Mr. Johnson's extremity? Cabinet men may make competent witnesses; but they should possess other qualifications. They should bring a weight of influence and character to the position, so that a change would fairly startle the country. Stanton created a sensation, not by his exit, but by his getting back. Should the President send ad interims to most of the departments Monday morning the shock would not be felt outside the District of Columbia, and here only because we doat upon sensations.
A Cabinet may dispense patronage. The one we have at Washington does this on a small scale, but more to the President's injury than benefit. Nearly all the government employés are in sympathy with Congress. They used to furnish Sumner with all his petitions for "manhood suffrage," "civil rights," "republican forms of government," &c., and now they supply aid and comfort to the radicals in New Hampshire. Except from the evidence of their personal assurances the President has no knowledge that his constitutional advisers entertain views corresponding with his own. A coinciding tendency of opinion has, under the accepted rules or partisan constancy, heretofore been exemplified by an appropriation of the benefits of patronage. It is proper to say that the President has not at any time exhibited a proscriptive spirit, nor has he exacted of the heads of departments a transfer of patronage from his enemies to his friends. At this time the departments are filled with radicals who have openly clamored for the impeachment of the President, and contributed of their sympathy and substance to uphold and perpetuate the Congressional policy. Not one man has ever been removed for vigorously abusing the President, nor has there been any discrimination against applicants who were recommended by influences in hostility to the administration. Furthermore, the President's recommendation of an applicant, in former times, was equivalent to an appointment. Now it is otherwise. His endorsement of an application amounts to no more than that of any other man. If there is a vacancy, he may get it or he may not. Positive men are now the most successful. An uncompromising radical or an out and out democrat can succeed where a conservative would hardly get courteous attention. This is not a fancy of my own. I heard the same opinion expressed by a conservative Senator, who gave utterance to it under the force of a somewhat unpleasant experience.
When Sergeant-at-Arms Ordway made up his statement of moneys disbursed for the investigating committees he produced a bewildering array of figures that show a vast expenditure in the aggregate without a corresponding return. Nearly $6,000 was paid to clerks -- that was good for the young men. The Sergeant-at-Arms received over $12,000 for subpoenaing witnesses and "sundries," which shows that his is a good business when the fever for investigation is on. Special messengers got over $4,000 for hunting up testimony. The details show a most liberal appreciation of this class of enterprise. As a member of the Judiciary or Impeachment Committee Mr. Boutwell received $886 for the May session, which includes mileage from Groton, Mass., to Washington and return, Mr. Eldridge, of Wisconsin, of the same committee, gets $542 for the May session, and this includes 2,784 miles travel. The mileage of the first amounts to $90, the mileage of the last to $278, showing an excess of pay to Boutwell over Eldridge for same service of $432. L. C. Baker received $62 for five days and mileage, while Ordway credits himself with $629 for summoning Baker five times.
The committee to investigate the Paymaster General's office expended $5,920. Among the items it is shown that Phil Sheridan gets $265 for 1,884 miles travel. He had been transferred at the expense of the government, and was stopping at Willard's at the time. This is proven by Ordway's charge, in the same column, of $5 for summoning him. Ordway charged no mileage, and he was entitled to it if Sheridan was. W. L. Lincoln has a charge against the same committee for $185 paid Stetson & Co. for use of parlor for committee.
The special Assassination Committee sums up a total expense, as reported, of $520, of which $506 was paid to its clerk. The Sergeant-at-Arms has stated that he paid Butler $3,000 but he omits to place it in the statement.
A member of the House, who travelled South with one of the investigating committees, tells me that he received his mileage and per diem, amounting to about $150, of which there is no account. The report is blind and inexplicit, and is only accurate in demonstrating that the investigating business was profitable to those who had most to do with it. A resolution of inquiry requiring more accurate information upon some points than is given is talked of.
The Dickens' readings have been well attended, and the audiences have generally given evidence of a predominating feeling of satisfaction. A little episode occurred the second night that brought the performance to a sudden though brief pause. An able bodied man, who from his boisterous manner and peculiar style of oratory might have been a Congressman, had some difficulty in finding his reserved seat. While the ushers were using due diligence to protect the man in his civil rights, the injured party remarked with very loud and determined emphasis that it was his opinion that the whole concern was a humbug, and that Mr. Chas. Dickens, familiarly known as "Boz," was the greatest humbug of all. Thus relieved, the gentleman, in the similitude of a reconstructor, sat down and enjoyed himself. Great injustice was done here by the agents, who kept back the front seats for certain parties and sold the interior ones to those who applied at the counter. Seats in the gallery were sold from which it was impossible to get a glimpse of the stage.
While the correspondence between the President and General Grant was brought out for the latter's benefit all are by no means satisfied with the result. It is demonstrated that the President can beat him in an argument, and then he has the witnesses at hand to prove his statements. Among the advocates of radical perpetuity there was an ominous shaking of heads the morning after the correspondence had been read and commented upon by the public. The Chase men regard it as damaging to Grant, and they greedily appropriate the benefit that may accrue from it to their candidate. In view of the succession of events that are gradually working Grant's ruin, the Chief Justice and his friends are gaining courage and strength. The General keeps open house, and takes great comfort in the popularity of his receptions. In this matter he maintains a sort of rivalry with the other end of the avenue in which the President is at a disadvantage again in not having the departments with him. It is said they came manfully and womanfully, too, to Grant's rescue on Wednesday night, when the cloud of the correspondence matter had settled upon him. This, with the little strategic artifice promising the presence of Dickens, filled the house inside and out. "Boz" failed, but the "gallant Phil," who on a memorable occasion was "twenty miles away," was there, and General Longstreet as well, both of whom were cordially entertained by the host.
Many who were present at the last reception of General Grant were impressed with the wearing effect of his complicated cares. They affirm that he looks haggard and unhappy.