History From America's Most Famous Valleys
The Orderly Book of Sir John Johnson
During the Oriskany Campaign
Annotated by Wm. L. Stone
With an Historical Introduction illustrating the Life of Johnson by J. Watts De Peyster, and Some Tracings from the Foot-Prints of the Tories, or Loyalists in America by T. R. Myers.
Joel Munsell, 1882
MRS. GRUNDY'S OBSERVATIONS AS TO UTOPIA
In her recent "Observations in Utopia,*' Mrs. Grundy, as active as extended in her travels and researches, points out many defects in the administration of that model Republic as instructive to our own. She tells us how "Colonel Trusty, a watchful consul in Switzerland reported - and perhaps violated the rules of the department, in also disclosing, what every intelligent citizen has long known to apply to many nationalities and cities of Europe-that some of the Cantons of Switzerland were shipping their convicts to Utopia, and suggested that an inspection for such contraband or' peace, be made at the time of departure, to which no respectable passenger could apparently object. When some compatriots evidently without appreciation that every country has proved able to produce more criminals than its prosperity requires, remonstrated, a junior official replied, that the consul had been reprimanded, and were he not a meritorious veteran would be removed. Would it not be fair, in the absence of any evidence of the pressure of the intelligence upon the earliest Congress for action, to infer that the country did desire an accession of such criminals to the honest portion of its citizenship, and their closer proximity to their homes and families. Could this vital suggestion have been overlooked, especially by that successor who had first excelled even, the founder of this Republic in a temperate and frugal denial in the viands of the executive table, and had displayed his unparalled clemency in restoring to rank so many dispensed with for its neglect by the judgment of their fellow officers -always a painful duty.
With a vast area of territory yet to be occupied, the quality as well as the extent of new accessions would seem to interest every citizen. The outrages daily recorded, rarely prove when investigated to be the acts of settled residents but generally of those of a floating and fungus growth who prefer to eat the grapes rather than to labor in the vineyard. Robbery, generally attended by the use of arms and often by the shedding of blood, does not seem to be deterred by the fear of a short and relatively comfortable confinement, with the hope of escape or pardon, by the influence of those perhaps more ready to overlook the wrongs of others, than they would be their own. The shooting of two policemen, at early evening, in a frequented village, while attempting to arrest three successful burglars, loaded with plunder secured in a neighboring town, within the writer's hearing, recalls the value of the Consul's suggestion, and the possibility of these very criminals, being of those he attempted to exclude ; an apparently less effective inspection at landing has since been legalized."
"Can the thought be entertained, that with our Washington at the head of government, and substantially the "Father of his Country" he would if advised of it have neglected this warning, as to what would appear to affect the healthy development of any country."
"It would be interesting, if it were possible," she adds, "to hear the criticism of some modern legislation here, and the tracing of its results, by one of our own time honored statesmen-Benjamin Franklin for example-accustomed to be driven from place to place of meeting, legislating with a halter in plain view in case of failure, and surrounded by the hardships of war, and the need of means for its progress, yet with the whole country's best interests always steadily in view. It might provoke even him to mirth, to foreshadow that refinement of push pole navigation, coming as one of the results of a progress based on those sacrifices, when a "constituency" here would demand, in the face of the President's veto, an appropriation to render a stream navigable, which, on a careful inspection proved capable of being carried, in the dry season, in a box drain a foot square. It would have pleased him as a broad philanthropist, to know, that in a recent bill, a provision requiring such inspection hereafter, was a desirable feature, and probably still more so to learn that the value of the method resorted to in the State of New York, of vetoing sections in a bill, and so preserving the interests of proper subjects of legislation had suggested itself also to this Utopian Congress."
"Could so wise a patriot as Franklin, with such intelligence as he had necessarily acquired as to the material of war, have been expected to vote for example, for the Utopian Pension Act, or other even humane legislation, not limited by provisions for the strictest personal examination of the claimant, by a responsible officer, supplied with ample evidence of identity and service, with power to test the common assertion that conjectured widows, have claimed in the names of soldiers, they have never seen, long lying in honored graves, and that constructive veterans possibly disabled by a bunion, acquired in too hastily retiring from active service, after the receipt of a bounty, are now in a large number of cases subsisting on an equal allowance with actual veterans."
"In our own country Adjutant General Stryker, of New Jersey, a zealous officer, who presents his resignation to each incoming Governor, and is never permitted to surrender a small salary fur a large service, has, with much labor from scant State archives by exhaustive search, with little assistance, and small expense, condensed a roster of the Revolutionary service of every contribution from that fighting little State, from a major general to a wagoner. He has supplemented it, with a similar record of service in the last war, and in Its inspection the long lists of *'deserted," probably mainly of those who never intended to serve- mingled with longer ones of gallant veterans, many of whom fell in battle-is a source of surprise to the reader. I have suggested the preparation and use of such works here. Probably these desertions are not in excess of those of other states, in proportion to their population, but they would be a large numeral addition to the Subsistence Roll of an army. Such records for all the States would seem to be invaluable to a conscientious Pension Agent, or a vigilant investigator of fraudulent bounties or claims. They would be read with attention in Utopia."
"The action of the Viking of Bashwash, when in charge of the Naval Affairs of Utopia, in restoring to the school under control of his Department, a number of cadets who had resigned to avoid an investigation, under charges unfitting them if proved, for service as officers, was greatly disapproved by those who wished to continue to be proud of their Navy, and that of the honored Commander who in strongly protesting, lost the favor of his chief and even his official courtesies, as highly praised." She further says, "the latest amendment to the Constitution of Utopia, which was not passed without opposition, seems worthy of attention. It provides, that every citizen in demanding or collecting Interest, rent or any other source of revenue, shall be hereafter required to exhibit to the person of whom payment is asked, at the time of such demand, a certificate to the fact that the creditor had voted at the last election, to be duly certified by the clerk of the Poll, or official evidence of a reasonable excuse, and all debtors, are forbidden to pay without such exhibition. It has already greatly increased the vote of that reserved class, who have heretofore neglected the control of their most valuable investment, by which all others are protected and guaranteed, while attentive to the election of corporate Directors."
''Civil Service Reform," is growing in favor with many, from the liberal construction of the law. Examinations for appointments are influenced as to their extent by the circumstances. Where strong testimonials are presented, they are held to make a searching series of questions as to capacity, unnecessary, but in their absence greater care is considered necessary.
The intention of the law is construed to be to enable the government to avail itself of the services of those whose armor has been hacked and broken in the defence of the interests of the party entrusted with the management of public affairs, and to dispense with the services of good men too engrossed in their duties to give sufficient attention to the interests of the power which protects them.
Their influence, as examples of good citizenship is considered more useful, when scattered unhampered by office amongst the body of the people."
"It is rumored that an effort will be made at the next session of the Utopian Congress, to rescind its novel rule requiring the insertion of pellets of cotton in the ears of a member addressing the chair, after ten minutes speaking, with a view to confining the length of his remarks to the suggestions of the mind, and not to allow them to be led on by the pleasant music of the voice, after the material suggestions have been made. Its intention was to economize valuable time, where all speeches may be elaborated and printed."
"The descendants of the Liberators of Utopia are rarely found in official position. They comfort themselves by feeling that like Alcibiades they may be esteemed too just.'
Great attention is given by the farmers here to the breeding of blooded stock, and fabulous prices are paid for animals of approved pedigree."
"This letter from a candidate for the Utopian Congress to the committee who had the power to nominate him , and to their credit did so, has been much discussed, its candor questioned, and its contents pronounced as "toffy," but it has been doubted, largely by those who had spoiled their digestion by its excessive use. Others consider that it is a good old fashioned doctrine."
"Still, that there may be no possibility of mistake, and in simple fairness to the gentlemen who have the matter in control, I take this public way of saying with as much emphasis as may be, that from careful observation and a somewhat intimate acquaintance with the inner workings of both the great political parties, I am convinced that the one greatest curse of our political system is the corrupt use of money and patronage in elections. Were I nominated, I should not directly or indirectly, pay or cause to be paid one dollar to secure an election. Further than this, I may say that, believing the work of office seeking, place brokerage, and position peddling to be no part of the duty of a member of Congress, I should, if elected, refuse positively to take any part in the general scramble for places in the departments, an occupation which can only be engaged in by neglecting legitimate and necessary work in the house at the sacrifice of self-respect, and to the serious detriment and disgrace of the public service. In short, I could only accept the nomination with the distinct understanding that, in addition to earnestly and sincerely subscribing to all the time-honored principles of my party, I should enter the canvass upon the clean new platform of honest, progressive, and independent Republicans. If there be any gentleman who would vote for my nomination on other terms, I beg him to refrain from doing so. His action could only result in disappointment." He was defeated.
It may occur to some weary reader, why some of these notes, apparently disconnected from the subject, are worked in to his annoyance. Simply because it appears that the use made by any nationality, of discussion of the action of either or all of its former rulers, is the strongest censure that can be inflicted by their posterity on those who opposed its creation, and questioned its future integrity, where so many were to be trusted with its control.
Mr. Henry George, who has lately bearded the British Lion in his den, and contended with the Dragon which prevented the universal prosperity and happiness of the human race, as fearlessly as did his namesake, the patron saint of the now oppressors, has on his return hastily plucked a handful of feathers, principally exotic, from the terminal portion of the Utopian "Bird of Freedom." He alludes truthfully, to the extravagance and uncleanliness of "Outre Mer," its great maritime and again largely colonial city, and yet displays an apparent want of appreciation of the causes requisite to the value of his undertaking. He says no one:
"Can go to Europe and study the system of government there without feeling a very great contempt for it-without feeling that he would like to go as a missionary among those people, to tell them to stand up, to teach them the virtues and the beauties and the philosophy of democracy. (Applause.) One thing, however, would deter him. A man would feel like that, if he knew nothing of the condition of this country. He would be met with the suggestion, however, that he look to his own country-to cities like this great metropolis of yours ruled and robbed by a class of miserable politicians."
After stating that if Utopia had been "true of Democratic principles " there would, not now, in his opinion " be a crowned head in Europe," he honestly points out as causes of the delay.
"But what shall we say when over here, where every man is equal before the law, where every citizen has a right to vote, where all power is in the hands of the people, the masses of the workers are but little, if any, better off than on the other side ? What is the use of democratic institutions to men who cannot get a living without cringing and buying and selling their manhood. (Applause.) Can we prate and boast of our institutions when we read of people dying of starvation ? when we have alms-houses in every city?"
He proposes to exempt improved property from future taxation, but to remove the field for the harvest of the enormous amount of its expenses to the unoccupied portions of the island, and annexed adjacent territory. Speaking of a friend who desired to invest in improvements, he says:
"If he went to the upper portion of this island, as he probably would go, he would find there plenty of vacant land that is now of no use to anybody save as the receptacle of rubbish and a browsing place for goats of that species popularly supposed to live on old boots and glass bottles. Very naturally he would say, no one is using this land. It is, in fact, in its present condition an eyesore and a nuisance. Let me come on it and I win erect a fine house, which will be an ornament to the neighborhood and an inducement to other people to erect good houses in the vicinity. Or I will build a factory in which I will employ a great number of hands, and turn out every year a large amount of goods that everybody desires. Should we not say to him:-'Go ahead and welcome! Fine houses are better than rubbish-filled lots, and we would rather have factories than goat pastures?' But we say nothing of the kind."
"On the contrary, Mr. Saunders would be confronted by some one by legal right of a title derived from some of the old Dutchmen who first settled this island and who have been dead and gone long years ago, who would say to him, 'Before you can build your houses or erect your factory you must pay me such and such a sum,' Finding that he could not in any ether way get a place upon which to make the improvement he contemplated, Mr. Saunders would probably consent to pay a price which in its nature, would be nothing more nor less than a species of blackmail levied upon a man who wished to improve natural opportunities for the benefit of some dog-in-the-manger who could not and would not use them for himself. His capital being thus further diminished he would proceed to build his house and erect his factory. What then? As soon as he got them up, along would come a tax gatherer and would say to him, you have built a house, you have erected a factory, and for doing these things the laws of this country fine you to such and such an amount, and unless you pay the fine and keep on paying the fine, we will take from you the property which is the result of your exertions.' And not satisfied with that, if Mr. Saunders' skill and prudence and energy enabled him, after all this, to make money, and his providence enabled him to lay it up, the taxgatherer would hunt him up in all sorts of ways and demand new fines and fresh penalties.
"Now, what I contend is, that it is stupid in us to thus hamper and vex and fine the men who enrich our city and our country, and that when we want money for common uses it would be much wiser for us to go for them to a man who is merely holding land in order to compel those who would improve it to pay him a high price.
"Whether I am a fool or a philosopher, a philanthropist or an incendiary, there is one thing I am firmly convinced of-that houses and factories and steamships and railroads, and dry goods and groceries are good things for any community to have and that that is the richest community that has most of them.
"Now, the more you tax those things the less of them you will have, but tax the value of land as much as you please and you will have none the less land, and it will be none the less useful. Tax land up to its full value and what would happen Why simply that those who are holding land of which they make no use, would be compelled to give it up, and that those who wanted to make use of it could go and take it and improve it and use it without paying to the nonuser anything for the privilege.
"Consider, gentlemen, how this city would grow, how enormously wealth would Increase, if all taxes were abolished which now bear on the production and accumulation and exchange of wealth. Consider how quickly the vacant spaces on this island would fill up could land not improved, be had by them who wanted to improve it, without the payment of the prices now demanded. Then extend your view to the whole country and see how the same policy would everywhere enormously increase wealth."
In this frank exposition of his theories of home reform, their suggestor overlook a some points important to their value. His " old Dutchman " for example, is typical for the descendant of the first white settler from Holland on the island of "Outre Mer " and as such has at least the same rights as though he had been descended from the early natives of any Isle however fair and green, has long since ceased to own any considerable part of it. The territory is already largely covered besides his "old boots and glass bottles " with the shanties of what is known as a squatter colonization who usually pay no rent and often reluctantly yield to dispossession before the progress of a more permanent improvement.
On the other hand the poor old Dutchman has submitted for years to the exactions of repeated assessments, valuable to the contractor and the politician, as a means subsistence to a constituency, in which the owner as a unit is disregarded where the greatest good is sought for the greatest number. Moreover he overlooks what the records will show, that a large portion of this property has already been sold for taxes, and assessments too onerous to be paid on wholly unproductive property, and that his additional taxes would be only a further lien on what is already forfeited or mainly for sale at far less than its accumulated cost. That to raise the enormous expenses of the city, unprecedented in the world for its area, would be like the nourishment of the Pelican which is said to feed on its own blood, or gleaning a field after it had been both harvested and pastured upon. The tax bills alone would soon cover its area as with a blanket.
His friend should realize before any location, what those longer familiar with the subject have learned , to count in the cost the yearly reminder of this past civic extravagance, and its present increase in his estimate of its use, or else to put on green goggles, and affect to be nourished by that dish of shavings, however annually cooked and set before him. In many cases he can "for further information apply on the premises " for corroboration of these suggestions.
He also neglects to tell, where, when all of this territory is improved by the result of industry, the next field for the imposition of new taxes which with death alone are certain, is to be found. Would not knowledge of such material points in the political economy of his own country, give value to suggestions as to the internal difficulties of any other. In seeking for any undiscovered field for additional taxation, on the island of "Outre Mer," he might aid the assessors, and also answer Mr. Pitt's pungent query, "Gentle Shepherd, tell me where?"
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