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The New York Times, January 5, 1901

Declares a Croker Emissary Tried to Close His Mouth.
Members Criticised for Indifference - Mark Twain and Other Notable Speakers Heard.

"The Causes of Our Present Municipal Degradation" was the subject that was discussed from many standpoints at a dinner given by the City Club last night. Not only were the causes the subject of discussion, but the speakers presented plans for the betterment of the city, prominent among them being those put forward by Bishop Potter and Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain.)

The dinner was a large one and Wheeler H. Peckham presided. With him at [the] table were Bishop Potter, Samuel L. Clemens, Charles Sprague Smith, Senator Le Grand Tibbitts, St. Clair McKelway, John E. Parsons, George F. Seward, Frank Moss, Paul Dana, R. R. Bower, the Rev. Thomas R. Slicer, and the Rev. Grenville Merrill. Bourke Cockran had accepted an invitation to speak, but was detained at the last moment, while letters of regret were read from Gov. Odell, Abram S. Hewitt, District Attorney Philbin, Charles Steward Smith, Robert C. Morris, William H. Baldwin, Charles R. Miller, and Joel Bernhardt.

Bishop Potter came in while the dinner was under way, and at once the diners rose and give him a cordial welcome. Throughout the course of his address which was the first public utterance on the police question since he sent his letter to the Mayor, the Bishop was constantly interrupted by applause. Several of his statements caused a sensation, notable the one in which he declared that just before he sent his letter to the Mayor calling attention to the conditions on the east side, and when it was known that such a letter was being prepared, he was visited by a man who said he represented Richard Croker, and was asked if he would be satisfied to let the matter of the Rev. Mr. Paddock drop - drop the whole question, in fact - if Capt. Herlihy and Inspector Cross were removed from their positions on the police force.

Many other emissaries of various persons and interests came to see him. Bishop Potter said, to try to make terms with him for the abandonment of the crusade, the terms to be such as would satisfy what the emissaries thought was the Bishop's personal vengeance.

Bishop Potter told the diners that he had come to the dinner to say pleasant things, and was not going to say them. He called them to account for not having done something to carry out the plan he had proposed in St. Paul's Chapel, and which individual vigilance corps, in which each citizen struggling for the general welfare should see to it that those charged with duties under the municipal government performed them. He contended that that was the key of the situation, and that out of it alone could grow great reforms.

Mark Twain said that he held the whole matter of reform in his hands; that he knew all about it, and that he was going to tell his hearers just how to bring it about. He told about an organization of which he was a member fifty-one years ago - when he was fourteen years old - which had been dubbed the "Anti-Doughnut Party." In the course of his address he dwelt on he fact that just such a party was needed now, and it was the opinion of those who heard him last night that the "Anti-Doughnut Party" would be one of the slogans in the next municipal campaign.


In his introductory address, Wheeler H. Peckham said that one of the causes of the present municipal degradation was that the men in control were bad, wholly and irredeemably bad, and that no man strong enough had yet come to the fore who could oust them and change matters. Men with the determination and morality to put out the wrongdoers and to put in others who would see that the misrule should cease, Mr. Peckham said, had not yet shown themselves.

"The issue," said Mr. Peckham," is simply one of men. "You cannot remedy matters by law nor by system, you have got to remedy it by the simple expedient of turning out the maladministrators and putting in their places men who are honest and capable. We must organize a power that will overcome present conditions and put in office men who are capable and aggressively so. Vice, that has awakened such an outburst of public opinion, is but one of the things that must go."

Mr. Peckham then introduced Bishop Potter, who, he said, had done more to awaken the sense of the community to the enormity of present conditions than any other man in the city.

Bishop Potter began his address by making a plea for tolerance. He said that conditions as they existed were largely a result of the complexities of human nature. He was not prepared to maintain, he said that the police as a body were corrupt, and said he believed that there were among them as many men who had aspirations toward good and aims that were commendable as among any other body of men of the same size.

"But they are the creatures of a system," said the Bishop. "I did not come here to say pleasant things, and the system exists largely because of your indifference and mine. The solution of the problem lies in individual activity and vigilance. I am sorry for one thing my friends, and that is that, in spite of the approval with which my remarks made in St. Paul's Chapel seemed to have met with at the time, they really fell absolutely dead. What have any of you done along the line of personal vigilance in spite of your evident desire to bring bout changed conditions? You will never get results until you get up the proper spirit of personal sacrifice and vigilance.

"Nothing better was ever done by Mr. Roosevelt when he was Police Commissioner, than the nightly tours he made through the city watching the police and seeing that they performed their duty. It brought the men to a sense of feeling that they were being watched. Every man charged with official duties ought to have the same feeling. Now I would like to ask you men her how far any one of you has troubled himself to observe the discharge of duty by the members of the police force.

"A well-known Judge said to me several days ago - his name shall remain unmentioned - that the men of the police force are bound together by a kind of loyalty that makes it incumbent on each one to see that his brother gets out of trouble, no matter of what kind.

"It is the duty, it seems, of every man of the 'brass buttons' to help a 'pal.' Do you recognize what a system like that involves? It means that you must bring wrongdoing home to me culprit in such a way that it will be impossible for this kind of loyalty to be of avail, and it is impossible to accomplish this without personal vigilance and constant watchfulness.


"I tell you, my brothers, that it does not make a copper's difference whom you put in or whom you put out. No one man can create a force loyal to duty unless behind that man or that Commissioner there is the pressing force of public opinion which makes him feel that his position would be intolerable unless he did what was right. Organization, coordination of forces, these are the things that are most needed, and it is along these lines that the victory must lie.

"The element of indifference, however, is not the only one against which we have to contend. There is also that of cupidity, that greed and passion to get out of every office every possible emolument, and a powerful organization at the top that allows this to go on.

"I suppose that it will be no surprise to you to learn that before the letter which I wrote was sent to the Mayor I was approached by a great many persons, emissaries representing all sorts of interests, to know what sacrifice it would be necessary for them to make to satiate my desire for revenge. I desire to disclaim here any feeling of that kind, or, in fact, any feeling arising out of the personal discourtesy shown to one of my clergymen. That was in itself a small matter.

"The point lay in the spectacle of a person going to the men for protection who were supposed to be conservers of the laws and the peace of the community and being deliberately insulted. It was the spectacle of the police ranging themselves on the side of crime and degradation against the decent element of the community that was intolerable.

"Among those who came to me was a man who said that he represented Mr. Croker. He asked me if I would be satisfied to drop the matter if Capt. Herlihy and Inspector Cross were beheaded. I told him that this was not a question of men. These men did but the bidding of those above them, and those above them in their turn were the creatures of those still higher.

"I told him that it was a system we were opposing, not a man or men, for he knew as well as you and I that the policeman does not hold his place through devotion to duty or honesty, but wholly and solely by the favor of those above him, who are responsible for the system.

"Some time ago I stated, and there were many criticisms on my statements - that money was the root of all the evil. A condition of society where gain excuses all doings must naturally affect the mechanism which runs a city such as this. There might be some higher aim.

"There must be some loftier motives. We must recognize in all who are worthy a striving for the right. The feeling must be fostered and nurtured. There must be personal sacrifice and vigilance, and when you can achieve that there comes the awakening of a great enthusiasm. The rest will be an easy matter.


Mark Twain, who was the next speaker, and who, Mr. Peckham said, would view the matter from a different standpoint, took issue with Bishop Potter at once. He said that there was lust for gain and dishonesty, but that it must be admitted that if such a condition was universal this country could not survive. He said that he believed that forty-nine out of every fifty men were honest, and asked if this were true why it was that the forty-nine honest ones could not have their way. The whole matter simplified, he said, was that the wrong man was in authority.

"Now I am here, " said Mr. Clemens, "with the utmost seriousness of manner to tell you what's to be done, and how to do it. I have exercised the trade of unsalaried statesmanship for years. I am a statesman not for reward, but for the peace of mind it brings me. I am too old to learn, but I am not too old to teach.

"Now, to set this whole thing right is very simple. I know all about it. It has been said by somebody, and if it hasn't it will be now, that we must learn wisdom out of the mouths of babes and sucklings or something of that sort. The whole solution of the question rests just there. Fifty-one years ago, when I was fourteen years old, I was a member of a party of a peculiar sort, and it was my belief that if we could have such a party now we would soon clear the political atmosphere. I bring it to you here now for the salvation of this town. The party was called the Cadets of Temperance.

"Its members wore red merino scarfs and walked in church parades and picnics. On entering it a boy had to promise not to smoke," said Mr. Clemens, removing the cigar from his mouth, "never to drink or gamble, to keep the Sabbath, and not to steal watermelons. In fact, you promised to leave behind all the liberties that were of any value, and pursue a career of virtue that was irksome to yourself and a reproach to all other people.

"There were thirty-four members of the party, and they were divided into two factions, the reds and the blues. Five of the members were purchasable, and they had to be purchased every month, when there was an election. Four could be secured on reasonable terms, but the fifth held out for war prices. The bribes were paid in the shape of doughnuts and chewing gum. There were two boys - the most incapable of the lot, but the most enterprising, who were always to the fore. There was Croker Brown on one side and Platt Higgins on the other, and one or the other managed to get himself elected every time. The good boys stood no show at all. They couldn't get elected.


"When we had stood this thing a long time, we got an idea. We good boys stepped out when we saw the balance of power with the purchasables, and formed another party. We called ourselves the incorruptibles, but we were not always known by that name. We had obloquy heaped on us, and we got the name of the 'Anti-Doughnut Party' because we couldn't be approached on the usual terms. Well, we started wrong by putting up one of our members for office, and of course he got licked.

But we stuck together, we twelve, and enunciated new principles. They were that none of us would ever accept office of any kind. We are here, we said, to put some virtue into the gang, and we're going to do it. We won't take office, but we warn you - meaning the other two parties - that you've got to put up your best men for office or you won't get our support. We were strong enough to make those terms, and that was the end of the Crokers and the Platts. The good boys were put up, and then we picked the best one and voted for him and he was elected.

There's the problem, gentlemen, solved. What we want today is an 'Anti-Doughnut Party' that won't take office, but will keep the other parties safe. I am sure that it can be done. In a modified form it has been done by the mugwumps, of which body, I am the only living representative. An 'Anti-Doughnut Party' of 60,000 or 80,000 can do the trick. It would spread from the city to the country, and in time it would dictate the nomination of every office holder from constable to President. All it would ask for was the best possible man, and its support would mean the best man's election.

"Not long ago we had two men running for President. There was Mr. McKinley on the one hand and Mr. Bryan on the other. If we'd had an 'Anti-Doughnut Party' neither would have been elected. I didn't know much about finance, but some friend told me that Bryan was all wrong on the money question, so I didn't vote for him. I know enough about the Philippines to have a strong aversion to sending our bright boys out there to fight with a disgraced musket under a polluted flag, so I didn't vote for the other fellow. I've got that vote, and it's clean yet, ready to be used when you form your 'Anti-Doughnut Party' that will want only the best men for the offices, no matter what party they belong to, and which will solve all your political problems.

John Jay Chapman gave what some considered an announcement of the Citizens' Union that they would insist on Controller Coler being nominated for Mayor on the reform ticked. "The Democratic machine wants the emoluments of office, and so does the Republican machine," said Mr. Chapman.

"It seems to me that the most practical way to win a victory for honesty an civic righteousness is by commencing a year ahead. Let us take a man like Coler, for example, and announce our candidate and say to the public, 'Here is our man.' Let us stand together without compromise. Let us say we stand for Coler and no compromise. People may sneer at the Citizens' Union and their efforts at organization, but it is the only way practicable to bring about an end of misrule in municipal government."

Others who spoke to the subject of the evening were St. Clair McKelway, Charles Sprague Smith, and Frank Moss.

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