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December 13, 1885
The Record and Guide.
THE RECORD AND GUIDE,
Published every Saturday.
191 Broad^w^ay, IST. *Y.
Our Telephone Call is.....JOHN 370.
OXE TEAR, in advance, SIX DOLLARS.
Communications should be addressed to
C. W. SWEET, 191 Broadway.
J. T. LINDSEY, Business Manager.
DECEMBER 12, 1885.
The credit of our government is very high with rich bankers, as
witness the price of its 3 and 4 per cents, national securities. But
Uncle Sam, in dealing with humble citizens, is an unmitigated old
rascal. He never pays any small debts. Our Court of Claims is
organized to prevent the payment of any just claims against the
government. To Congress is committed the sole authority to pay
the bills of private citizens. But the rules of that body are such
that not one private claim in five hundred is ever attended to.
Governments get into debt to individuals in a thousand ways, but a
citizen, no matter how just his claim, cannot sue the government.
Nor does there seem to be any way of righting this grievous
wrong. Any Congressman who was active in getting a court
organized to pay the just debts of the government would be
denounced as a jobber, and an advocate of public plunderers, by
nine-tenths of the newspapers throughout the country. Hence,
there is no one in Washington that dares move in this matter.
Other countries, even China, have courts where justice is done
private claimants. We have not; nor are we likely ever to do right
by that class of public creditors. And Uncle Sam will remain
what he has been, the champion " dead-beat" of the world.
Boston is a lucky city. When Mayor O'Brien was elected by the
Democrats there was quite a panic on Beacon Hill, because it was
said he represented a combination of the dangerous elements
amongst the voters of the'* Hub." But Mayor O'Brien, since he
has been in office, has won golden opinions from all sorts of people.
He has proved to be honest and independent. Under the recent
amendments to the charter of Boston the Mayor exercises en¬
larged powers. He is given great authority, and so if things go
wrong he cannot shift the responsibility upon the City Council or
some board of commisioners. As a consequence, Boston has
repeated the history of Brooklyn. Mayor O'Brien will be triumph¬
antly re-elected. So far, the raunicipal changes from irresponsible
to responsible government have worked well. It is impossible to
insure good municipal administration when the power is lodged in
boards of aldermen or supervisors. The people must know whom
to call to account when things go wrong, and this can only be
secured by giving authority to mayors and heads of departments
who are directly responsible to the voters.
Ex-Governor Samuel J. Tilden's warning should be heeded. He
has notified the couniry, in a letter addressed to Speaker Carlisle,
that five thousand million dollars wortli of property in twelve ports
on our sea-coast is entirely undefended and at, the mercy of any
naval power which has even a small iron-clad fleet. We have not
a gun nor a ship to protect the enormously wealthy cities on our
sea-coast. The Record and Guide for the last five years has been
trying to irapress upon real estate owners the danger to their prop¬
erty from the undefended condition of this great port. The tempta¬
tion to plunder us will some d iy be found irresistible. If we had
ten million men under arms, they could do noti:ing ; for a foreign
fleet could destroy every city on our sea-coast, from Portland to
Savannah, while our vast armies could only look on at the work of
destruction. The indifference of our people to this treraendous
peril is simply unaccountable. It is the ^ery frenzy of national
self-complacency and optimism. What millions upon millions of
money this stolid stupidity and self-conceit will some day cost us.
There are eighty million dollars in the treasury above the legal
reserve required by law; and this could be used in the manufacture
of great guns, and the construction of fortifications and floating
batteries to defend our harbors. Even twenty millions per annum,
were it appropriated, would be a timely beginning, and would
help the industrial revival which is now taking place. The money
spent on iron, work shops and hired labor, would stimulate countless
minor industries, and make a new home market for our agricultural
products. Congress ought to appropriate at least this sum for
Secretary of the Navy Whitney accounts for the fact that we
have no vessels of war suitable for offence or defence, to the faulty
organization of the department over which he presides. We have
spent seventy-five millions of dollars of late years, and we are with¬
out a gun or an available ship. It is safe to reason that all our
government departments should be reorganized so as to give greater
authority to the heads, and greater efficiency to the service. Indeed,
vital changes should be made in the machinery of our government,
so as to render it serviceable in the present condition of the coun¬
try. This could best be done by a national constitutional conven¬
Mayor William R. Grace is fortunate in having so many friends
in the daily press. It was alleged that he profited largely by the
dishonest operations of Grant & Ward. He discounted the paper
of that firm, for which, it is alleged, he charged usurious
interest. A clerk or bookkeeper of his also received large sums of
money, in the way of business, from that dishonest firm and
was indicted by the grand jury the other day. The World com¬
mented rather freely upon these transactions, whereupon that
enterprising paper has had its mouth shut by a libel suit. The
Sun, Evening Po.st, Herald, Mail and Express, and other paper?
have entered the list as champions of our city's chief magistrate.
They claim that the house of Grace discounted the paper of Grant
& Ward in the regular course of business, and had no knowledge
of the guilty operations of that firm. Thia is all probably true;
but would these newspapers have been as zealous to defend the
reputation of some uninfluential private citizen, as they have been
that of a powerful mayor of the great city of New York ?
Government Buildings—How Shall their Construction be
The Supervising Architect, in his annual report to the Secretary
of the Treasury, says that there are now in course of construction
eighty new buildings, calling for a total expenditure of $8,511,400.
In addition to these, there are nearly two hundred finished build¬
ings scattered all over the United States under the immediate
control of the Secretary of the Treasury. These do not include
army and navy buildings ; only court-houses, post-offices, custom¬
houses, etc. With the increase in number and population of
cities will oome a continual increase in the number of federal
Few persons have any idea of the magnitude of the building
operations conducted by the Treasury Departraent. The Super¬
vising Architect is at the head of a bureau which makes a big hole
into the revenues of the country. His office is one of great personal
responsibility, calling for the highest order of ability as an architect,
as a builder and contractor, and as an administrative and executive
officer. It is too complicated a place to be entrusted to a single
raan, and for whose acts the Secretary of the Treasury has to be
directly responsible ; when in the very nature of things the latter
can know but little, if anything, about the technical matters form¬
ing the business of the bureau.
In the report alluded to, the recommendation is made that a board
be created, of which the Secretary of the Treasury shall beex-officio
chairman, and which shall include the Supervising Architect and
three other raembers, to be called the Board of Public Buildings of
the Treasury Department. Of the three other members one should
be a sanitary and heating and ventilating engineer, another should
be a master builder, and the third should be an architect of eminent
skill and ability, who would be an assistant to the Supervisine
Architect. The architect suggests that the board be appointed by
the Secretary of the Treasury, with salaries sufficient to secure
officers qualified for the discharge of their important duties.
A better plan would be to appoint an advisory board of five com¬
petent raen to act in conjunction with the supervising architect
similar to the advisory board created by Congress for the Navy De¬
partment. In the interests of economy and good architecture, this
board should arrange standard plans for buildings to cost certain
amounts ; so that for cities of a corresponding number of inhabi¬
tants the government buildings would be alike in cost, of the same
architectural design, and having the same internal arrangements
and finish, practically interchangeable in all particulars. Each
building would require its own set of plans, because the shape of
the lots, the grade of the streets, and other causes would compel
more or less modification; but as the accommodations are, in
nearly all cases, precisely alike—a post-office, court rooms, offices
for certain officials—for cities of like size, whether in the East, or the
West, or the South, but little difficulty would be encountered in
making the standard plans conform to any local peculiarity. Out¬
side the respective buildings should be in a classic style of architec¬
ture, such as the experience of past centuries has proven to be true
and good and pleasing. Inside the construction should be
solid, simple and durable; in every case, using on!y that in
material and decoration which will be the most permanent
and lasting. The cost of each building would be known before a
stone was laid ; the people would secure common sens^e buildings,
and a full equivalent for the money expended. The erection of
public buildings should be conducted on business principles. In the