IN THE FIRST SEVEN CHAPTERS OF HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY MR. MC CLURE TOLD OF HIS EARLY CHILDHOOD IN IRELAND, THE DEATH OF HIS FATHER, AND HIS VOYAGE TO AMERICA, WHEN WHEN HE WAS NINE YEARS OLD, WITH HIS MOTHER AND YOUNGER BROTHERS; OF THE FAMILY'S STRUGGLE FOR A LIVELIHOOD IN THE NEW COUNTRY; AND OF HIS OWN EFFORTS TO GET AN EDUCATION. WHEN HE WAS SEVENTEEN HE WENT TO GALESBURG, ILLINOIS, AND WORKED HIS WAY THROUGH KNOX COLLEGE. AFTER HIS GRADUATION HE CAME EAST AND ENGAGED IN MAGAZINE WORK. HE MARRIED, AND NOT LONG AFTERWARD LAUNCHED HIS NEWSPAPER SYNDICATE. AMONG THE YOUNG WRITERS WHO HELPED TO ESTABLISH THE SUCCESS OF THIS NEW ENTERPRISE WERE ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON, CONAN DOYLE, RIDER HAGGARD, AND RUDYARD KIPLING. IN 1893 HE FOUNDED "MC CLURE'S MAGAZINE."
AT the time of the World's Fair the Armour Institute of Technology was established under the charge of Dr. Gunsaulus, the great preacher. I sent Arthur Warren to Chicago to write for McClure's an article on the Armour Institute and on Mr. Armour. That gave me the idea of having articles written on the greatest American business achievements, and it was suggested in the office that the business achievements and methods of the Standard Oil—more especially, the great care that had built up their methods of economical handling and distribution—would afford a very interesting article. Then, as we got into the subject, we saw three or four articles, and planned, I think, to begin about February, 1897. About that time the talk about the trusts had become general—it was an important subject. The feeling of the common people had a sort of menace in it; they took a threatening attitude toward the Trusts, and without much knowledge. So, in our office discussions, we decided that the way to handle the trust question was, not by taking the matter up abstractly, but to take one trust, and to give its history, its effects, and its tendencies.
Now, the most important trust was the first trust and the great trust, which, from its enormous wealth and through the ability of its founders and owners, might be called the Mother of Trusts. Many other trusts were subsidiary to this Trust. It was either the mother of the other trusts, or the model, or the inspirer of them all. Moreover, it was the creation largely of one man, one figure, one personality—John D. Rockefeller; so that the history of this Trust would lend itself almost to the simplicity of biographical treatment. Miss Tarbell had lived for years in the heart of the oil region of Pennsylvania, and had seen the marvelous development of the Standard Oil Trust at first hand, so Miss Tarbell undertook to prepare some articles on the history of the Standard Oil, dealing especially with Mr. Rockefeller as the central figure. Mr. Rockefeller was well worth being the central figure—there is no question that he is the Napoleon among business men. Without him there would have been no Standard Oil. In the commercial, industrial and financial development of this country he probably played a greater part than any other single man. When the Standard Oil people learned of our project, Mr. H. H. Rogers sent us word through his friend, Mark Twain, that the Standard Oil people would gladly help us in securing material, and would lend us every facility for the production of this history; for which offer we were duly thankful. Up to the fourteenth article, Miss Tarbell took each article, as it was written, to Mr. H. H. Rogers for his comment and suggestions.
After these articles began to appear in McClure's Magazine, people were continually asking me where Miss Tarbell got her material; there seemed to be a general impression that she must have some mysterious source of information. It is true that she got material from many persons then living; but, in the main, her sources of information were open to any student who had the in- View Image of Page 138 dustry and patience to study them—the records of Congressional investigations, of State investigations, the testimony of Mr. Rockefeller, Mr. Archbold, and other officers of the company given in the suits that had been brought against the Standard Oil Company in different States. She also had access to many collections of material made by men who had fought the Standard Oil, and by lawyers who had conducted cases against the trust. Through Mr. Rogers she had access to the information possessed by the Standard Oil people themselves. Her study of the wealth of accessible material lasted for five years, and enabled her to produce a history of unimpeachable accuracy.
The first important result of the publication of the Standard Oil series, was the change in regard to railroad rebates. It was realized that the railroad rebate was the great weapon of the Standard Oil.
Miss Tarbell had spent nearly three years on this work before the first chapter of it was printed. She had read and digested almost a library of material, and had traveled and seen a great number of people. When she wrote this "History of the Standard Oil" she was probably the greatest living expert on that subject.
Simultaneously with the beginning of this series, began the articles by Steffens on municipal misgovernment. Mr. Steffens had done some articles successfully for the magazine and had been asked to join the staff as desk editor. It seemed to me that he would be better qualified for the position if he became familiar with how the magazine staff-writers did their work, so he was given simply a roving commission. Miss Tarbell suggested that it might be worth while to have an article on certain admirable aspects of the city government of Cleveland. So Mr. Steffens went out there, with no definite idea in his mind. He went as far as Kansas City, Missouri, and in the office of the Star, a newspaper singularly well conducted by an editor and staff of unusual quality, he learned of the extraordinary work of Folk in St. Louis. He went to St. Louis and on his own initiative prepared an article on the revelations brought out at the trials that Folk had carried on against grafters. This article did not, to my mind, fully cover the subject, so that I soon had him back for an additional article. We published two articles on St. Louis.
Meantime I had learned of unbelievable conditions in Minneapolis, and I sent Mr. Steffens there. The situation in Minneapolis was so appalling, and the act of the citizens in electing Mayor Ames under the circumstances of that election so incomprehensible, that I entitled the article "The Shame of Minneapolis." The second article on St. Louis was entitled "The Shamelessness of St. Louis." Mr. Steffens' articles dealt in large part with material that had been brought out in the courts or by Grand Juries, and were instrumental in the first awakening of the American people to municipal administration.
After the Minneapolis article had shown the appalling situation in that city, the Boston Transcript stated that this sort of city government had really nothing to do with the American people, who were a highly moral and industrious people. It occurred to me that if people could live as safely and upright under laws that were made and administered by crooks and incompetents, under a city government like that of St. Louis, here was an anomaly in civilization.
That thought led me to gather together from different sources statistics showing the comparative number of murders and the comparative amount of fire and the comparative number of accidents involving the loss of life. This investigation showed that between 1881 and 1895 murder in the United States had increased six times as rapidly as the population—and that murder in the United States was from ten to thirty times as much per million inhabitants as in the countries of northwestern Europe; that fire losses, burglaries, loss of life and injury by accidents on railroads, in coal mines, factories, and so on, showed a similar condition, proving that government by dishonest and incompetent men does not result in the protection of life and property. The results of this investigation I published in December, 1904, during the publication of the St. Louis articles and Miss Tarbell's articles. The realization of the fact that life and property in the United States were less secure than in other countries, led me to go on making such studies as in time would arouse public opinion. Mr. Steffens' work dealing with the corruption of State and city politics was a feature of the magazine for three or four years.View Image of Page 139
These articles elicited an immediate response from the press, and undoubtedly had a strong influence upon the public mind. They were carefully and thoroughly worked out, and were, in so far as things made with human instruments can be, accurate. In fact, they were the first accurate studies of this nature that had then appeared in a magazine in America. To secure this accuracy, to make such studies of value, I had to invent a new method in magazine journalism.
The fundamental weakness of modern journalism, it seemed to me, was that the highly specialized activities of modern civilization were very generally reported by men uninformed in the subjects upon which they wrote. The one exception to this was the London Times, under Mr. Delane's management. Mr. Delane employed a staff of experts to report for him upon all subjects requiring special knowledge. He might employ the services of this or that expert only once in two years; but when a new discovery was made in science, or a new question arose in economics, he had at hand the man who could say all that was known on the subject.
The fault of this system, for my purpose, was that what the experts had to say was very seldom interesting to read. Men like Darwin and Tyndall and Huxley, who were at once great scientists and excellent writers, were few. I first began to read the works of Professor Tyndall when I was in college, and had always considered them models of interesting and comprehensible scientific writing. Later I knew both Huxley and Tyndall, and visited Tyndall at his beautiful place at Haslemere, and also at his Alpine home at Belap. When I first began to have scientific articles reported for the magazine, I used to urge my writers to try to follow something like Tyndall's clear manner of presentation.
When I began to feel the necessity to handle economic questions in the magazine, the same difficulty confronted me. Most of our journalists were not accustomed to going into a question very thoroughly, and the trained students of the subject either could not write clearly, or they were warped by some special prejudice and devoted to some particular aspect of the subject. I decided, therefore, to pay my writers for their study rather than for the amount of copy they turned out,—to put the writer on such a salary as would relieve him of all financial worry and let him master a subject to such a degree that he could write upon it, if not with the authority of the specialist, at least with such accuracy as could inform the public and meet with the corroboration of experts.
The articles produced under this system were generally called "McClure articles," and they were from the first recognized as authoritative. The preparation of each of these articles entailed, on the writer's part, the accumulation of knowledge and material enough to make a book. The preparation of the seventeen articles that made the Standard Oil series took Miss Tarbell five years. The articles were produced at the rate of about three a year, and cost the magazine about four thousand dollars each. Mr. Steffens averaged about four articles a year, and each article cost us about two thousand dollars. It was my experience that such articles as gave McClure's Magazine its peculiar standing can not be produced by a less expensive method. Of course, subjects that will repay the editor for so expensive a method of presentation are few and important.
Before Mr. Steffens joined the staff of McClure's, we had already engaged as a staff writer Mr. Ray Stannard Baker. While Mr. Baker was working on the Chicago Daily News, we had bought several articles and stories from him, and we found he had the qualities we wanted in our staff writers. It so happened that the January, 1903, number of McClure's, which contained the third article of Miss Tarbell's Standard Oil series, also contained Mr. Steffens' Minneapolis article, and Mr. Baker's article on the anthracite coal strike of 1902.
Thus the origin of what was later called the "muck-raking" movement was accidental. It came from no formulated plan to attack existing institutions, but was the result of merely taking up in the magazine some of the problems that were beginning to interest the people a little before the newspapers and the other magazines took them up.
Miss Viola Roseboro' joined the staff of McClure's as manuscript reader soon after the magazine was started. At one time we had a prize contest for short stories, and so great a number of stories came in that I View Image of Page 140 engaged Miss Roseboro', whom I knew well, to help me read them. This led to a permanent connection. Miss Roseboro' was of great service to the magazine in discovering promising material by unknown writers. She had a singularly open mind toward the manuscript bag, a natural attitude toward stories which is rare in professional readers, who, like everybody else, in time become the victims of their own tastes and their own successes, and are therefore always hunting for the thing they themselves like best, instead of for the thing that new writers are writing best. Miss Roseboro' seized upon the early stories of O. Henry, Jack London, Rex Beach, Myra Kelley, and the "Emmy Lou" stories when their writers were unknown, with as much sureness and conviction as if she had known what the end was to be in each case, and exactly how popular each of these writers was to become.
People often ask me how I got ideas for the magazine. An editor, of course, gets ideas from his interest in what is going on in the world; being interested is a large part of an editor's vocational equipment. Sometimes ideas came about things that were close at hand and easy to procure; sometimes an idea led me a long chase, as in the case of Miss Stone.
In the autumn of 1901 the newspapers were full of the capture of Miss Stone, an American missionary in Macedonia, by Bulgarian brigands in the Balkans. The newspaper campaign to raise money to ransom Miss Stone, and the widespread excitement concerning her fate, led the brigands—who were really revolutionists trying to raise money to buy arms to fight the Turks—to think they had captured an American citizen of such importance that they could ask any ransom they chose. They demanded $125,000, and, when this was refused, negotiations ceased, and Miss Stone and her companion, Mme. Tsilka, were unheard of by the world for months. I was in Switzerland with Mrs. McClure when rumors began to reach us that Miss Stone was still alive.
I went to Salonica, when I found that Mr. House, the head missionary there, and Mr. Tsilka, were about to go to Serres, on the Southern slope of the Rhodope Mountains, among which mountains Miss Stone and Madame Tsilka were supposed to be concealed. I accompanied them to Serres, and we waited there for about three weeks for news of the captives.
Mr. House and Mr. Tsilka knew what the Turks did not know—that the American mission at Bansko had delivered ransom money to the brigands, and that Miss Stone and Mme. Tsilka might be brought to Serres at any time. The American missionaries at Bansko had been closely watched by the Turkish soldiers, who knew that the missionaries had money for ransom. Their hope was to catch the missionaries treating with the brigands, open fire on them as traitors to the Turkish government, and seize the gold intended for the brigands. The Americans had in their saddle-bags in gold £14,500 Turkish (equal to $65,000), which had been raised in this country by popular subscription. The problem was to deliver this gold to the brigands without being swooped down upon by the Turkish soldiers. The Turkish soldiers, who surrounded the mission at Bansko under the pretext of guarding it, were really there to see that no gold went from the mission to the Bulgarian brigand-revolutionists. Every time the missionaries went out on horseback, their saddle-bags were weighed when they went forth and when they returned.
But, in spite of these extraordinary difficulties,—right under the nose of the Turks,—the Americans took three separate journeys, each carrying each time all he could of gold, and delivered the gold to the brigands. As they removed the gold from their saddle-bags they put in little leaden images of the exact weight of the gold removed, so that the bags always weighed the same.
When the missionaries at Bansko made their final payment of gold to the brigands, the brigands had agreed to deliver Miss Stone and her companion sound and safe at Serres, as soon as they could do so without running the risk of being attacked by other bands of brigands who were hoping to recapture Miss Stone and get another ransom. All this Mr. House and Mr. Tsilka knew. During the three weeks that we spent in the little hotel at Serres we expected the captives hourly. At last, however, we grew impatient and concluded (which was indeed the case) that the brigands were so closely watched that they could not produce Miss Stone without danger of her falling into the hands of other brigands, or of the Turkish soldiers, where she would have been infinitely worse off than with them. View Image of Page 141 View Image of Page 142 View Image of Page 143 View Image of Page 144 We never suspected the Bulgarian brigands of bad faith, for brigandage is one profession in which the prosperity of a man's business absolutely depends upon his scrupulously keeping his word. We decided that the brigands were in such a predicament that they could do nothing for the present, and we went back to Constantinople to await further news.
After waiting some time, I decided to leave Turkey and return to Europe; so on a Saturday I got my passport for Vienna. Sunday I went to bid Mr. Leishman, the American minister, good-bye, and he said: "Mr. McClure, if I were you I would not go now; I think I would go to Serres. Word has been received from Miss Stone, and she will arrive in Serres Tuesday morning."
I went back to Serres, and met Miss Stone on the afternoon of her arrival at Salonika. She came by train, and I was the first person to board the train after it pulled in at Salonika. After a short talk with her, I arranged to get her account of her experience for McClure's Magazine. Madame Tsilka's baby, born after their capture, was then six months old, and had never slept under a real roof. The two women had been well treated, but had gone through terrible hardships. Before Mme. Tsilka's baby was born, the brigands had decided that they would kill it, because it would be so much in their way. The very night the baby was born, they decided to take a long and hazardous mountain journey, as the Turkish soldiers were pressing hard. Influenced by the pleadings of Miss Stone, however, they consented to wait until three days after the birth of the baby, when Mme. Tsilka, with her baby slung on her back, had to make with them this long and very rough journey. The brigands were always fleeing from the Turks or from other brigands, and warned the women that if the baby cried they would have to kill it for safety.
I TELL this story as an example of the adventures I sometimes had in getting material for the magazine. Of course, any one would have seen that Miss Stone's story would be interesting material for a magazine; but not infrequently the magazine's biggest successes were articles whose interest was generally doubted, even in my own office, until they had succeeded. My articles on Mme. Montessori's method of teaching young children were an example of that. Every one in the office said a pedagogical article could not possibly be interesting. When I was in London in the winter of 1910, Miss Mary L. Bisland, the London representative of McClure's Magazine, who often secured splendid material for us, told me of the remarkable work that Mme. Montessori was doing at Rome in educating young children. Miss Bisland had got her information concerning Mme. Montessori's method from an old friend, Miss Josephine Tozier, who had spent some months in Rome, talking to Mme. Montessori and visiting her schools. Through Miss Bisland, I commissioned Miss Tozier to write an article on the Montessori method of teaching young children. Every important article that appears in McClure's Magazine is always submitted to persons who have special knowledge of the subject treated upon, for criticism and suggestion. When Miss Tozier's article was completed, it was carefully compared with Mme. Montessori's book—then untranslated—by the English critic, Mr. William Archer, who assured me that it adequately represented Mme. Montessori's theories. Before the article was published it was submitted to several authorities on kindergartening and pedagogy in the United States. These experts, I found, greatly differed in their estimates of Montessori's methods. Some of them were very antagonistic in their attitude, and declared that, because Mme. Montessori recognized and valued the work of great educators of the past, there was nothing new about her method.
Miss Tozier's article appeared in the May, 1911, number of McClure's, and immediately letters of inquiry began to come into the office in such numbers that it was impossible to answer them all. Mme. Montessori, in Rome, found herself engulfed in such a correspondence as threatened to take all her time. It seemed as if people everywhere had been waiting for her message. In the winter of 1913 some eighty primary teachers from all over the world, from as far away as Australia, went to Rome to study the Montessori method.
Alexander Graham Bell, whose chief interest has always been in teaching and methods of teaching, although he is best known as the inventor of the telephone, told me that he considered the introduction of the Montessori system in the United States as the most important work that McClure's Magazine had ever done.View Image of Page 145 View Image of Page 146
The method of dealing with public questions which distinguished McClure's Magazine was developed gradually. My desire to handle such questions in the magazine came about, I think, largely from my frequent trips abroad. I went to Europe three or four times every year, in the first place, because I got more ideas when I moved about and came in contact with interesting people, and, in the second, because my health was so uncertain that I had often to get away from my business. Physically, I was a worn-out man when I founded McClure's Magazine. I had never paid any attention to ways and means. I started to go to college with fifteen cents in my pocket; I went to Boston to get a job with $6 as my whole capital; I was penniless when I founded the syndicate. Working against odds of this kind, without money or influence, had told on my health, already overstrained in my boyhood by hard work and poor nutrition.
I had never thought of such a thing as economy of effort. When I had an idea, I pursued it; when I wanted anything, I went ahead and got it. My business associates, Albert Brady and Mr. Phillips, often counteracted the effects of my rashness in business, and saw to the ways and means of carrying out my plans. But I had squandered my strength more recklessly than I had squandered anything else, and nobody could help me to meet the over-draft I had made on my health.
When I was on the road, seeing editors, after my syndicate was well started, I used often to have to spend half the day in bed, in order to be strong enough to attend to business the other half. From 1890 on I was overcome more and more often by periods of complete nervous exhaustion, when I had to get out of my office and out of New York City, when I felt for my business the repulsion that a seasick man feels toward the food he most enjoys in health. Crossing the ocean seemed to relax this tension. New interests would take hold of me in London or Paris, and before I knew it I was picking up editorial ideas again. Good editorial work can only be done out of spontaneous personal interest; it can not be forced. To lose his enthusiasm is the worst thing that can happen to an editor̵next to having been born without any. In Europe I always got a renewal of the power to be interested; and that, for me, was simply the power to edit an interesting magazine.
IN my rapid trips back and forth from America to Europe, I noticed certain differences in the attitude of the people, here and abroad, regarding public service, and regarding the connection between business interests and government. I often noticed, for example, as compared with Berlin or Paris, the extraordinary filth that characterized New York City. I remember once, arriving in New York, getting into a street-car to go up from the boat, and saying to myself: "What dirty streets in this city; and what dirty cars in these dirty streets; and what dirty people in these dirty cars!"
When I was abroad I always had the New York and Chicago papers sent to me. The front page usually announced some horrible crime or accident or disaster. There was a savage note in the news as compared with European news. It was not that the foreign press was less diligent in reporting crimes and disasters, but that there were fewer to report. In London there is an obscure murder about once in three weeks; in New York City and in Chicago murders occur several times a week the year round There are more bombs thrown with criminal intent in New York City than in all the rest of the world. There are more fires in New York City than in all the great European cities added together. There are more people burned alive in New York City every year than in all the great European capitals. Naturally, the newspapers read differently.
I was disappointed in the effects of Mr. Steffens' articles on the corrupt government of most of our large cities. It did not seem to me that the people were roused as they ought to be by the revelation that they were governed by the lowest classes in the community—often by criminals. In treating the subject Mr. Steffens had confined himself to the money waste and to the wretchedly poor public service resulting from this kind of municipal government. There was a darker side, which concerned the increase of crime and lawlessness, the traffic in vice, and the calculated debasing of men and women. I thought, if the people were informed about this, it would make a stronger appeal than financial waste to their moral sense, especially to that of the women, everywhere.
In the winter of 1906-1907 the Chicago papers were filled day by day with news that really revealed Chicago as a semi-barbarous country in which life and property were View Image of Page 147 View Image of Page 148 unsafe to an extraordinary degree. This daily crop of news would be duly accented by reports of horrible crimes. I had a selection made from these papers which gave a criminal record of Chicago for the winter and revealed an appalling situation. Now, it is a fact which I have observed that people will become accustomed to almost any environment. I remember, when I was in Turkey, where occasionally a village would be devastated, the children killed, the women tortured, that people in an adjacent village, who might be the victims any time, went about their work quite calmly and indifferently, so that it is not suprising that this daily grist of news of the Chicago crimes was accepted by the citizens as a matter of course.
From the material I had gathered I selected enough to make a magazine article, and sent Mr. George Kibbe Turner to Chicago to write an introduction to this article, which was made up solely of news or editorial extracts from the Chicago papers. This resulted in an article by Mr. Turner on Chicago that was the beginning of a discussion on the degrading influences in government connected with the exploitation of women, and led to activities that subsequently produced the Vice Commission Report on Chicago, a document that goes far beyond any statements made by Mr. Turner in his Chicago article.
Mr. Kennan's articles on San Francisco revealed the same union between the political machines, the actual government, and the exploitation of women. An investigation made by us in different parts of the country led us to make a study of the situation in New York City on the same lines. The effect of these studies on the public mind was much more marked than of the studies which dealt solely with financial corruption.
IN 1906 I began to notice references to the so-called commission form of government, and when Mr. Turner joined my staff he suggested that he prepare an article on the commission form of government as developed in Galveston, Texas. This article appeared in October, 1906. At once I realized that here was found the basic remedy for the extraordinary inefficiency and misgovernment in American cities, and the magazine supported this method of reforming the city government. Mr. Steffens' articles, in dealing with municipal corruption, were generally expressed in terms of financial waste. But in all our investigations, and in fact in the general published reports in the newspapers, we found that these corrupt governments were kept in power largely by the votes of the most corrupt elements of the population—by the crooks, the criminals, saloonkeepers, gamblers; pool-room keepers, and so on; that in many instances the so-called political machine drew its power to deliver votes from this class. The new work of the magazine was to show how, by the organization of the most corrupt and debased people in the community, the political machine was able to turn over the funds. Corrupt city government, as we understand it in American States, benefits all calsses who wish to get advantage, either by breaking the laws or by having bad laws made: it benefits the capitalist, who can thereby get important franchises; it benefits the saloon-keeper, who can keep his saloon open nights and Sundays; it benefits all those who want money that they do not work for.
It seemed to me that one of the most important fields of inquiry would be to study different populations under different governments, and, making allowances for the fixed conditions as to territory, climate, soil, etc., find out which people, on the whole, were best governed and which governments were the most successful as governments. I was desirous of finding out why, in American cities as distinguished from foreign cities, the debasing and debased part of the population should have a predominating influence in nominating and electing officials. There was nothing in history that would explain this difference, and it was only by a study of our commission form of government, and a study of the methods organizing governments in England and Germany, that I came to understand the basic causes for the inefficiency and corruption of governments in American cities, and the only way to secure good government.
THERE are two basic causes for the failure of governments in America. One may be briefly called the theory of Rousseau, which claims that a way to secure good government is to have all the elected officials elected directly by the people, and that these officials should be for a very short term of office, not more than a year. It failed because the conditions of employment were so disagreeable View Image of Page 149 View Image of Page 150 that the best men would not take office, the length of employment so brief that no one could afford to qualify for the office or could expect to be qualified by experience. Further, the very length of the tickets, together with the huge and cumbersome machinery of nominations, brought about a condition that actually put the nominations into the hands of a small group of men, so that the actual voting people had almost no choice in regard to a nomination. The other cause of failure of government in America was based upon the theory that first became prominent in the writings of Montesquieu, in which the idea was set forth that the people can have freedom under government only if the government is organized so that different institutions of government will be a check each upon the other. This developed, in the American Constitution, to a government of divided powers, a government of checks and balances, where the executive and the judiciary and the official each was a check upon the others. This principle was incorporated in the State governments and the city governments. It was proved, wherever tried,—in the South American republics and the United States—to be a most disastrous principle in governments.
I found, by studying different forms of government, that where crime was small in amount, where there were good laws for the protection of workingmen, where there were good laws which resulted in very small fire losses, that there the governments were identical and simple; namely, the people elected only a board of directors. Extraordinarily well governed German cities elect only a board of directors and no other kind of officials, and this board of directors employs the Mayor and other city officials. This method is identical with the so-called commission form of government in America. This form of government is purely and solely representative. Being simple and natural, it involves a very simple electoral system. In a German city there are no preëlection activities recognized by law—no conventions, no primary elections, no method of legally getting an official's name on a ticket. When an election occurs, the very first act of a German citizen is to go to the polls and vote for any man who is eligible. It sometimes happens that no one has a majority; within eight days the two highest names are voted for, and the one that has the majority becomes a councilor. The ticket of a German citizen is, therefore, one name long—it may View Image of Page 151 View Image of Page 152 View Image of Page 153 be his own creation or that of a group of friends. This happens once in six years, and constitutes the entire electoral activity of a citizen of a German city, who secures an amount of self-rule that we can not conceive of in America. This simplicity of government renders unnecessary the somewhat dangerous organs of government known as the Initiative, the Referendum, and the Recall.
The commission form of government is the universal form where efficiency is necessary, and it is the form adopted by corporations all over the world; it is the form of all leading governments of leading countries—England, Germany, Demark, Switzerland, Holland—northwestern Europe; it is the universal form by which groups of men organized to carry out a common purpose—whether members of a church, owners of a bank or railroad, or members of a labor union—proceed to carry out their purpose.
The average American citizen often apologizes for his indifference to public questions by saying that under a loose and careless government the individual has more freedom than under a well organized government, and that graft is the price we pay for democracy. Yet the only two foreign countries in which graft is as prevalent as it is here are Spain and Russia, countries where the individual is badly off. I once spent some time in Seville, inquring into the municipal system, and found a more unblushing state of things than has ever existed in any American city. The Mayor of Seville, I found, always got rich during his term of office. His methods were very simple. One of them was to condemn the paving of a certain street, order the paving removed, pave another street with the same material, and collect from the city for it. The people made no objection, because they were used to it. In St. Petersburg I found instances where battleships had been officially designed, built, armored, manned, money drawn therefor—and the ships were entirely a myth—not a nail had ever been driven. Every one knows that, in the war with Japan, Russia was defeated by graft. She could have contracted for the Siberian Railway with a reliable English firm for $250,000,000. Built by Russia herself, with all the graft, the Siberian railway cost $500,000,000, and was so inadequate as to be almost useless under the urgent demands of war.
WHEN I came to this country, an immigrant boy, in 1866, I believed that the government of the United States was the flower of all the ages—that nothing could possibly corrupt it. It seemed the one of all human institutions that could not come to harm. This feeling was general, at home and abroad. The nation had, during the Civil War, risen to moral heights which it has never since attained. The war itself resulted in the opening of easy avenues of corruption. During the struggle, and for years before, everything else had been neglected for the one great question of slavery. People felt that if this were righted, nothing could be wrong. The great resources of the continent were rapidly opening up, with no provision being made to control them, or to control the few able men who were bound to seize and utilize these unparalleled resources for their own ends. After the war came the evils of carpet-bag government in the South, and the corruption attending the pension system. The American people went on believing that they were still what they once had been, but they were not.
As a foreign-born citizen of this country, I would like to do my part to help to bring about the realization of the very noble American Ideal which, when I was a boy, was universally believed in, here and in Europe. I believe that the dishonest administration of public affairs in our cities has come about largely through carelessness, and that the remedy is as simple, as easily understood, and as possible of attainment, as the remedy for typhoid fever. The remedy is no dangerous experiment. It was adopted in Germany in the latter part of the last century. As a matter of self-protection it was adopted by Great Britain in the first third of the last century, and it lifted the nation out of as corrupt conditions of government as had ever existed. It was adopted by Galveston, after the great flood of 1900, to enable that city to continue its existence as a city. This very simple remedy is the establishment, in every municipality, of what, in a railroad, is called a board of directors, in a German city is called the Council, and in an American city is called the commission form of government.
Next month MCCLURE'S will publish a collection of letters of extraordinary interest, written in response to Mr. McClure's Autobiography, which have been received by the editor of this magazine.