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The Hon. Bardwell Slote, Of Cohosh
by [?]


The man whom poor dead Billy Florence used to make the dominant, laughter-breeding memory-haunting figure in “The Almighty Dollar,” is with us still. He infests Washington for many months of each year. He saves the country with persistency. I purpose to tell of him as I have known him. A residence of three years in the Capital City and a daily converse with its legislators has convinced me that nearly all congressmen are Bardwell Slotes, more or less. It is a fact that to a dweller in the District of Columbia there are no great men. Washington people are valets to these heroes. They get to know them with their rouge and corsets off. The sight is not pretty, but it is instructive. Sometimes it fills a man with despair of the future of this country. It convinces him that the greatest republic of history cannot hold together for another century. It makes him think that statesmanship is dead, never to resurge, and that its place is taken by narrow foul politics. But generally mirth comes as a relief. There is so much of the ridiculous in the modern American Cicero or Catiline that one’s visions of his shortcomings is blurred by the tears that laughter brings.

In nine cases out of ten the man sent to Washington to represent his people is uneducated. In the tenth case he is ill-bred. I once showed to twenty congressmen the following stanza, asking them to translate it.

“Le bruit est pour le fat,
La painte est pour le sot,
L’honnete homme s’eloigne trompe,
Et ne dit pas mot.”

It is the simplest of French doggerel and means, freely translated, that while the fat-headed and the weakly foolish do a great deal of jawing when mistreated by the powerful, the sensible man picks himself up and totes himself far from the neighborhood wherein he is unwelcome and never says a word. Of my twenty congressmen but one offered a translation. That was the dead William H. Crane, of Texas. The men were taken at random, and I may say that I did not expect any translations when I started out. Most frequently a man gets to congress through a practically acquired knowledge of dirty politics backed by the ability to make a stump speech, to tell a smutty story, and to plead for his job with a slavish lickspittleism that would disgust a Digger Indian. The ordinary congressional candidate when smitten upon one cheek will turn the other, and when smitten upon the other will hoist his coat-tail and request the honor of a kick.

It is but natural that a job which is obtained by eating filth and drinking filth and sleeping in filth is held to with a tenacity that rises superior to all manliness and all decency. The congressman knows but one God–the people who elected him. He has but one object–to pleasure those people and get a renomination. He does not represent the United States of America. He represents his district. His idea of statesmanship is to get as many federal jobs for the voters of his District and as many and large federal appropriations for his District as he can. That is all of it. Any individual Congressman, if he had his way would fill the government places entirely from his District and erect a Federal post-office and custom house at every cross roads in his Districts. If he could do these things, he thinks he would be certain of reelection, and he is right. Federal patronage is a fanged whip that hangs ever above his shoulders and occasionally it falls. The recipient of the blow cringes, cowers and howls like a beaten hound, but he does not resent. When Grover Cleveland called the Fifty-third congress into extraordinary session, the object being to repeal the Sherman act and utterly demonetize silver, thus completing the vast robbery of 1873, he knew that there was a pro-silver majority against him, but he knew also that he held the handle of the patronage whip in his fat beer-swelled hand and that his slaves would troup to do his will at the first crack of its lash. The result justified his confidence. The Democratic party had a majority of nearly 100 in the house of representatives, but that majority voted directly against its convictions. It was told that it would get no jobs for constitutents until it had surrendered its honesty. American history contains no such pitiful instance of cowardice and grovelling meanness. Instead of one Benedict Arnold selling his soul for temporary gain, we had fifty. It did the soul of me good to read the returns of the next Congressional election and to know that the truckling, craven disgusting majority was wiped out as a boy rubs a wet sponge across a slate.