Commentary

Disciples


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Thursday, September 3, 1891

     4:45 P.M. Discovered that W. was in no good condition and not able to go to Harned's. "I can hardly walk across the room. It is a venture I dare not make. No, no, no—give my love to them all—tell them I remember the old days. Oh! they are unspeakably precious to me! Tell Tom—tell the wife. Tell Nellie—tell Anne—tell all, my love is with them, though I am here!" How his tone carried me back to other years! "And now," he said, "I

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have had word from Doctor—have you? And it appears he will not be here till tomorrow or even Saturday. His letter and one from Doctor Johnston are downstairs—Mary has them."
Just as he was speaking Mrs. Davis came in with the letters. He laughed, "Are they my letters, Mary? I was just telling Horace how to get them downstairs." I also had letter from Bucke.

     W. reported, "This has been one of my very worst days—a day full of discomfort, depression—yes, oppression, too, and a muddy condition generally." Mrs. O'Connor not in to see W. today. Despite illness, however, W. suddenly roused himself to fire pitch because of assertions now in papers that the United States was "the wealthiest country on the globe." He said, "I have thought a good deal on that point. Everything looks damned fair till a few figures are exhibited—then the pretty theory vanishes. I don't know what the unspeakable rush for money means—will lead to—on this continent. Unmentionable degradation—rottenness—the foulest, perhaps, taking it politically, ever known, ever written of in history. Wealth unbounded, greed as unbounded, one man feasting on the ruins of another! Look at politics—stinking, dripping, with the last filth, experiences. Often and often I used to look at Brooklyn, New York City—see all that transpired there—a perfect carnival of fraud—and now Camden. I get a sort of insight here—and what I don't tell you, ask Tom about! Tom knows—he has gone through it all! From Sewell down, fraud, fraud, loot, theft. Bribery everywhere—show, show, of virtue—all as hollow as a shell. I suppose no city on the face of the globe—no municipality—can show a worse fool, for its size, than Camden! How much tax do you suppose I pay on this little home? It is assessed at $800, and $25 is my tax yearly. And that is only one tax—there are half a dozen minor taxes piled on top of that yet. And not a thing to show for it—not a thing—no public spirit—no park, no decent highway even. Politics! Politics! Did I tell you about the young fellow I met the other day? I knew him to fail in three or four things—he had no ability to make anything go. And now, when I ask him, what do you mean to start next,

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he says, 'I am going into politics.' 'What do you mean by that? What is politics?' I find it is to burn on the heels of a ward politician—to become that himself—to be made alderman, freeholder, member of council—to live on bribes, in fact. God forgive us the profanation! It is horrible to think of—excites me to the most unmitigated disgust. I ask, what hell will it not lead us into? I suppose every job done is half of it corrupt—breaches of faith—rotten self-calculation. Every man sunk in filth, beastly foul money-getting. And curious to say, the people themselves, the great body of the people, are healthy, sound—right, honest, at heart—spinally pure—eligible to the best. No, no—I doubt if England, any country, can afford such political samples—we excel them all. But if we do not, then alas poor Scotland! In our own town—uptown—all that half of the place—are a lot of people—cultured, cute, moneyed, colleged, prosperous, arrayed in purple and fine linen, satisfied with their books—who, I venture to say, pay their taxes, knowing they are looted—but half of whom couldn't tell you today who is mayor of the city. Yet America, robbed, gnawed at the vitals, lived upon by a mass of corrupting political fraud—is wealthiest of the list—exceeds all in her power to outlast her evils."
I jokingly said, "How Tucker would like to hear all this from you. He would say, we will forgive you even your praise of an Emperor if you are willing to say this longside it!" W. laughed, "True, the good Tucker! But I have only given one side—that one side that can't be too strongly stated—must be faced!" I have rarely heard him speak with more fire and vehemence.


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