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price of a vote at the ballot-box, political or social influence, or any other thing counted of value which may tempt a man to violate his duty, public or private; or that any individual, natural or artificial, may be willing to give as the price of a duty violated or neglected, as the price of an improper advantage or special privilege.
This thing that we call grafting is not new. It is as old as the history of the human race. The only new thing about it is the name we moderns have given it. The first reported case is that of Esau vs. Jacob, found in an ancient set of reports that are not frequently cited in the courts. The record in this case shows that the defendant, Jacob, was a “smooth man.” In fact, he admits that in the record. He is the first grafter to do this. All grafters from that day to this have been and are smooth men. The judgment entered in that case was that the defendant, Jacob, was a supplanter. Every grafter since his day has been, to a greater or less degree, a supplanter. He also confessed that he was afraid of his brother, Esau, after he had grafted him out of his birthright, and in this all the covey of grafters are like him. They are all physical and moral cowards. This case also establishes another remarkable similarity between the ancient and modern grafter. Jacob retained all the advantages he gained from his brother by graft, followed up that advantage by monopolizing the entire stock business of Laban, his father-in-law, and was then by fear compelled to use a large part of his gains got by grafting to buy protection from his wronged twin brother, who was preparing to force him to trial, by battle, on the issue joined between them. Judas Iscariot was a grafter, the thirty pieces of silver and the betrayal of the Nazarene his graft. His remorse to the point of suicide was but his just punishment, inflicted at the bar of his own conscience. He was not the last grafter to suicide.
The present condition of graft in this nation has appalled us. With fear we contemplate the future. The rising tide of greed seems to be undermining and submerging some of the
old landmarks that our fathers have set. The moral standards that we have deemed as fixed and eternal appear to be crumbling. Many men of honored names, who have stood for a lifetime as the exponents of honesty, integrity and manhood, have been unmasked and revealed to their fellowmen as grinning skeletons of deception, fraud, dishonor and treason to every interest and every trust that we hold dear.
This unmasking has gone on with such feverish haste, the mantle has been torn from so many frauds, so many have toppled from their pedestals that we have commenced to look about and inquire if there are many men left who are honest, who have been faithful to their trust, who have the funds intact for which they are trustees, who can honestly give a faithful account of their stewardship, who have not joined the throng of grafters. We have suddenly come to think that graft is the crying sin of the age.
Graft is not the disease that is gnawing at the vitals of the nation. It is only one of the many symptoms of that disease. The real vital disorder is materialism, the worship of the things of sense and the death of our ideals. . We have set up false standards of value; for patriotism, love of home, kindred and native land, we have put up the love of wealth; for love of honesty, integrity, duty and virtue, we now love the almighty dollar; instead of our love for our fellow man, his mental and moral acquirements, his stature as an image of his Creator, we love the things that he hath—his lands, his houses, his cattle, his stocks, his bonds, his money, and all things that he has accumulated. In our blind worship of the material the mere fact that he may be a dolt, a scoundrel or a degenerate is of no great moment, we are loyal to our idolatry of the material, be he prince or clown. Goldsmith has well stated our condition:
“Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.”
but the source of much strength and good to the nation and her people. Wealth is essential to the growth, education, training, development and strength of a people. It is as essential as the shell of an egg to the development of the life of the bird, but as the living bird is more than the shell, so is the life of a man more than the things that have sustained his life. The bird hatched from its shell does not worship the broken house from which it is liberated, but with spread pinions soars toward the sun, and gives thanks for its life in untutored song; but man is prone to love and worship the source of his life that he can see and that is material rather than the spiritual that he cannot see and is only spiritually discerned. The decay of man and not the accumulation of wealth by honest means is the menacing evil. "Gold glitters most when virtue shines no more.
Within the brief space of forty years our ideals have almost entirely changed. Then we loved liberty. It was the breath of our nostrils. The free man was our standard of value. We worshipped in the temple of Mars then and not in the temple of Mammon. To make it true that all men were born free, we marched our sons to the sacrifice as to a banquet. They went gladly because they were men, ready and willing to die for the liberties of their fellowmen, and to preserve the integrity of the nation that was more to us than the land upon which it was built and the houses in which we dwelt.
Since then the pendulum of thought has swung a way to the other limb of the arc, and the sons of the men who made that magnificent sacrifice to liberty and the nation are worshipping in the temple of Mammon, and many have gone money mad. The only standard of success that attracts the notice of these worshippers is the accumulation of things material. They do not ask what fields of knowledge has he explored? What has he done for his fellowman? What has he discovered? What can he do? What does he know? What is he? They ask but two questions. Has he arrived? How much has he got? To
them the means of accumulation is a matter of little moment; that he has accumulated is of the greatest moment. They deem him “On fortune's cap the very button.” And call him a trust magnate, a captain of industry, a millionaire and suggest that he round out his career in the United States Senate, for the only reason that his name is Croesus.
“The lust of gold succeeds the rage of conquest;
The last conception of degenerate man.” We need not think it strange that with our ideals abandoned and wealth esteemed, and the only good that man can acquire, that evil should abound.
"For the love of money is the root of all evil.” The love of money is not the weakness of the rich alone. Lazarus at the gate loved it with the same devotion as the rich man who was called to torment. The offense is not the love of much money, it is loving money at all. It is in loving a thing that is not worthy of affection. A man can as sanely love a cast-off garment as a spent dollar. Petrarch has well said:
"He who expends gold properly is its master,
is he who despises it."
The greatest of the Hebrew Judges, when he was old, made his sons judges over Israel. “And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes and perverted judgment.” And the Hebrew people cried, “Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations." Man was not created yesterday. He has met this condition before. Theocracies, kingdoms and republics have withered and died from this vital malady.
We need not marvel then when the symptoms appear after contagion. We can understand the lure and power of the thing that calls a United States Senator from honor and fame
to a lasting disgrace, or causes him to face the ignominy of a prison cell, or makes him welcome death as a substitute to a term in the penitentiary. We can understand why the presidents of great life insurance companies should direct into foreign channels the golden streams meant to alleviate the wants of the widow and orphan and to fight back the wolf from the door of famine and use it to purchase for themselves the robes of high priests in the temple of Mammon and to purchase banquets and the smiles of courtesans for their friends. It is well that disgrace can cover them with its sombre mantle and death welcome them into the silent house of forgetfulness. It is well that the living have removed their residence from their native land and the scenes of their degradation to the cities of Europe. We can thus explain why an educator of national reputation, of wide influence, with troops of friends and the envy of his fellows, should at one step pass from his exalted position to a felon's cell. We see it in the hand that beckoned to a minister of the gospel, eloquent of tongue and masterful of mind, who preached to the poor, and lured him to a suicide's grave. This is the snare that caught in its meshes the labor leader and friend of the workingman and put him in Sing Sing. It is the lure of graft that made a blacksmith the millionaire political boss of one of the great cities of the west and caused him to exchange the calloused, sooty hand of an artisan for the itching palm of a convicted scoundrel. It is the lure of graft that has honeycombed the governments of states, counties, townships, cities and villages and set a boss at every political center to levy tribute and determine what vice shall thrive, by dividing the spoils with him, and what shall not; to stand between the people and the government and say what laws shall be enforced and what ones shall be a dead letter; to stand between the government and the offender and say which shall be punished by the law and which shall not.
Graft puts its slimy hand on the shoulder of the municipal officer, and his oath of office becomes perjury. Graft beckons