Monday, April 2, 1906
Government of new Territory of Nevada—Governor Nye
and the practical jokers—Mr. Clemens begins journalistic life
on Virginia City Enterprise—Reports legislative sessions—He
and Orion prosper—Orion builds twelve-thousand-dollar
house—Governor Nye turns Territory of Nevada into a State.
PROMOTION FOR BARNES, WHOM
Had Woman Ejected from White House; to be Postmaster.
MERRITT GETS NEW PLACE
Present Postmaster at Washington to be Made
Collector at Niagara—Platt Not Consulted.
Special to The New York Times.
WASHINGTON, March 31.—President Roosevelt surprised the capital this
afternoon by announcing that he would appoint Benjamin F. Barnes as Postmaster
of Washington, to succeed John A. Merritt of New York. Mr. Merritt, who for
several years has been Postmaster here, has been chosen for Collector of the Port
of Niagara, succeeding the late Major James Low.
Mr. Barnes is at present assistant secretary to the President. Only a short time
ago he figured extensively in the newspapers for having ordered the forcible ejection
from the White House of Mrs. Minor Morris, a Washington woman who
had called to see the President. What attracted attention to the case was not the
ejection itself, but the violence with which it was performed.
Mrs. Morris, who had been talking to Barnes in an ordinary conversational
tone, and with no indications of excitement, so far as the spectators observed, was
seized by two policemen and dragged by the arms out of the building and across
the asphalt walk in front of the White House, a distance corresponding to that of
two ordinary city blocks. During a part of the journey a negro carried her by the
feet. Her dress was torn and trampled.
She was locked up on a charge of disorderly conduct, and when it was learned
that she would be released on that charge a policeman, a relative of Barnes's, was
sent to the House of Detention to prefer a charge of insanity against her so that she
would have to be held. She was held accordingly until two physicians had examined
her and pronounced her sane. He was denounced by Mrs. Morris, by various newspapers,
and by Mr. Tillman in the Senate.
The appointment of Barnes to be Postmaster so soon after this incident has created
endless talk here. It is taken to be the President's way of expressing confidence
in Barnes and repaying him for the pain he suffered as a result of the newspaper
criticisms of his course.
Orion Clemens again. To continue.
The Government of the new Territory of Nevada was an interesting menagerie.
Governor Nye was an old and seasoned politician from New York—politician, not
statesman. He had white hair; he was in fine physical condition; he had a winningly
friendly face and deep lustrous brown eyes that could talk as a native language the tongue
of every feeling, every passion, every emotion. His eyes could out-talk his tongue, and
this is saying a good deal, for he was a very remarkable talker, both in private and on the
stump. He was a shrewd man; he generally saw through surfaces and perceived what was
going on inside without being suspected of having an eye on the matter.
When grown-up persons indulge in practical jokes, the fact gauges them. They have
lived narrow, obscure, and ignorant lives, and at full manhood they still retain and
cherish a job lot of left-over standards and ideals that would have been discarded with
their boyhood if they had then moved out into the world and a broader life. There were
many practical jokers in the new Territory. I do not take pleasure in exposing this fact,
for I liked those people; but what I am saying is true. I wish I could say a kindlier thing
about them instead—that they were burglars, or hat-rack thieves, or something like
that, that wouldn't be utterly uncomplimentary. I would prefer it, but I can't say those
things, they would not be true. These people were practical jokers, and I will not try
to disguise it. In other respects they were plenty good enough people; honest people;
reputable and likable. They played practical jokes upon each other with success, and got
the admiration and applause and also the envy of the rest of the community. Naturally
they were eager to try their arts on big game, and that was what the Governor was. But
they were not able to score. They made several efforts, but the Governor defeated these
efforts without any trouble and went on smiling his pleasant smile as if nothing had
happened. Finally the joker-chiefs of Carson City and Virginia City conspired together
to see if their combined talent couldn't win a victory, for the jokers were getting into a
very uncomfortable place. The people were laughing at them, instead of at their proposed
victim. They banded themselves together to the number of ten and invited the Governor
to what was a most extraordinary attention in those days—pickled oyster-stew and
champagne—luxuries very seldom seen in that region, and existing rather as fabrics of
the imagination than as facts.
The Governor took me with him. He said disparagingly,
"It's a poor invention. It doesn't deceive. Their idea is to get me drunk and leave me
under the table, and from their standpoint this will be very funny. But they don't know
me. I am familiar with champagne and have no prejudices against it."
The fate of the joke was not decided until two o'clock in the morning. At that hour
the Governor was serene, genial, comfortable, contented, happy, and sober, although
he was so full that he couldn't laugh without shedding champagne tears. Also, at that
hour the last joker joined his comrades under the table, drunk to the last perfection.
The Governor remarked,
"This is a dry place, Sam, let's go and get something to drink and go to bed."
The Governor's official menagerie had been drawn from the humblest ranks of his
constituents at home—harmless good fellows who had helped in his campaigns, and
now they had their reward in petty salaries payable in greenbacks that were worth next
to nothing. Those boys had a hard time to make both ends meet. Orion's salary was
eighteen hundred dollars a year, and he couldn't even support his dictionary on it. But the
Irishwoman who had come out on the Governor's staff charged the menagerie only ten
dollars a week apiece for board and lodging. Orion and I were of her boarders and lodgers;
and so, on these cheap terms the silver I had brought from home held out very well.
At first I roamed about the country seeking silver, but at the end of '62 or the beginning
of '63 when I came up from Aurora to begin a journalistic life on the Virginia City
Enterprise, I was presently sent down to Carson City to report the legislative session.
Orion was soon very popular with the members of the legislature, because they found
that whereas they couldn't usually trust each other, nor anybody else, they could trust
him. He easily held the belt for honesty in that country, but it didn't do him any good
in a pecuniary way, because he had no talent for either persuading or scaring legislators.
But I was differently situated. I was there every day in the legislature to distribute compliment
and censure with evenly balanced justice and spread the same over half a page
of the Enterprise every morning, consequently I was an influence. I got the legislature
to pass a wise and very necessary law requiring every corporation doing business in the
Territory to record its charter in full, without skipping a word, in a record to be kept
by the Secretary of the Territory—my brother. All the charters were framed in exactly
the same words. For this record-service he was authorized to charge forty cents a folio
of a hundred words for making the record; also five dollars for furnishing a certificate
of each record, and so on. Everybody had a toll-road franchise but no toll-road. But the
franchise had to be recorded and paid for. Everybody was a mining corporation, and had
to have himself recorded and pay for it. Very well, we prospered. The record-service paid
an average of a thousand dollars a month, in gold.
Governor Nye was often absent from the Territory. He liked to run down to San
Francisco every little while and enjoy a rest from Territorial civilization. Nobody complained,
for he was prodigiously popular. He had been a stage-driver in his early days
in New York or New England, and had acquired the habit of remembering names and
faces, and of making himself agreeable to his passengers. As a politician this had been
valuable to him, and he kept his arts in good condition by practice. By the time he had
been Governor a year, he had shaken hands with every human being in the Territory of
Nevada, and after that he always knew these people instantly at sight and could call them
by name. The whole population, of twenty thousand persons, were his personal friends,
and he could do anything he chose to do and count upon their being contented with it.
Whenever he was absent from the Territory—which was generally—Orion served his
office in his place, as Acting Governor, a title which was soon and easily shortened to
"Governor." Mrs. Governor Clemens enjoyed being a Governor's wife. No one on this
planet ever enjoyed a distinction more than she enjoyed that one. Her delight in being
the head of society was so frank that it disarmed criticism, and even envy. Being the
Governor's wife and head of society, she looked for a proper kind of house to live in—a
house commensurate with these dignities—and she easily persuaded Orion to build that
house. Orion could be persuaded to do anything. He recklessly built and furnished a
house at a cost of twelve thousand dollars, and there was no other house in that sagebrush
capital that could approach this property for style and cost.
When Governor Nye's four-year term was drawing to a close, the mystery of why he
had ever consented to leave the great State of New York and help inhabit that jack-rabbit
desert was solved: he had gone out there in order to become a United States Senator.
All that was now necessary was to turn the Territory into a State. He did it without any
difficulty. That patch of sand and that sparse population were not well fitted for the
heavy burden of a state government, but no matter, the people were willing to have the
change, and so the Governor's game was made.
Orion's game was made too, apparently, for he was as popular because of his honesty
as the Governor was for more substantial reasons; but at the critical moment the inborn
capriciousness of his character rose up without warning, and disaster followed.
Tuesday, April 3, 1906
The Barnes incident again—Barnes appointed to postmastership
of Washington—Mr. Clemens prepares speech on King Leopold
of Belgium, but suppresses it after learning that our Government
will do nothing in the matter—Intends to speak at Majestic
Theatre on "The American Gentleman" but is defeated by length
of first part of program—Theodore Roosevelt the American
gentleman—Mark Twain letter sells for forty-three dollars at Nast
sale—Report cabled that Mr. Clemens was dying, in London—Reporters
interview him for American papers.
"White House Strong-Arm Methods," Says a Local Newspaper.
SENATE MAY HOLD IT UP
New Postmaster Characterized as a
Carpetbagger—Citizens Say Selection Is an Insult.
Special to The New York Times.
WASHINGTON, April 2.—The President's selection of Benjamin F. Barnes,
his assistant secretary, to be Postmaster of Washington has raised a storm. It is
being criticised as a "carpetbag" appointment, Barnes being a New Jersey man.
Members of the House and Senate criticise it, and it is reported that an effort will
be made to defeat the confirmation.
The feeling on the subject is shown to-night in the appearance of The Evening
Star, the Administration's strongest supporter in the city press. The Barnes matter
breaks out all over the paper. First, there is a cartoon representing the President
handing the District of Columbia an April fool cigar, which explodes, the face
of Barnes appearing in the smoke, while the President shouts "April Fool!" Next
there are three columns of interviews with prominent citizens of the District and
members of Congress, all condemning the appointment.
The leading editorial article is devoted to the subject, and says that the
President has rewarded "his tactless and too strenuous bouncer" by giving him the
Washington Post Office at double his present salary. The Star says:
"There remain, logically, to be rewarded at the expense of the District, the
policemen who shared with Mr. Barnes the honors in the Morris drag-out. What
shall their harvest be—a local Judgeship, Commissionership, or Superintendency
The Star prints a string of clippings from other papers ridiculing the appointment.
Then, all over the editorial page are scattered detached paragraphs like these:
The application of White House strong-arm methods to the local Postal
Service may relieve the patrons of the office of the necessity of licking their
Much as Oyster Bay approves of the President it would rise in indignation
if he used his influence to supplant its local men in local offices.
The April Fool wag becomes less violent as the years go by. His style of
humor is but seldom exploited to any shocking extent. The recent appointment
of a Postmaster for Washington offers a contrary argument, but it is
only one of those exceptions which prove the rule.
When in future your letters seem to have been hit by a cyclone, passed
through a train wreck, and run through a sausage machine you will know
that they have come out of the Washington Post Office. But don't go to the
Post Office to complain unless in need of exercise. Ladies should observe
extreme caution in this matter.
Some of the President's local proteges are as enthusiastic for Mr. Barnes
as they were for the whipping post not long ago.
There is a strong feeling that in the matter of appointments Niagara Falls
has very much the better of the transaction.
The last reference is to the transfer of Postmaster Merritt to Niagara Falls to
make room for Mr. Barnes. Finally The Star prints letters from citizens to the editor
protesting against the appointment.
Among the interviews with prominent citizens is one with R. Ross Perry, a
leading lawyer, who says: "Apparently the President thinks this district should be
governed as the Romans governed a conquered province." D. William Oyster calls
it "an insult to our community." Mason W. Richardson says: "We seem to have no
rights that are worthy of respect." John Ridout says, "in view of the temperament
of Mr. Barnes, as disclosed in the Morris incident, the prospect for satisfactory
interviews between him and citizens acting in the exercise of their right to criticise
the administration of his office is not encouraging."
So far as I can remember, I have kept track of the Barnes incident by occasionally
inserting an informing clipping from the newspapers. If anything is lacking from this
procession of signal-posts it is the President's letter of some weeks ago. Maybe I inserted
it. Possibly I didn't. But it is no matter. Either way will do. It was splendidly brutal,
frankly heartless. It contained not a word of pity for the abused lady; and an equally
striking feature of it was that it contained not a word of pity for the President himself.
Surely everybody else pitied him, and was ashamed of him. It contained not a word of
rebuke, nor even of criticism of Barnes's conduct, and its approval of it was so pronounced
that the spirit of it amounted to praise.
And now the President has appointed this obscene slave to the postmastership of
Washington. The daring of it—the stupid blindness of it—is amazing. It would be
unbelievable if it emanated from any human being in the United States except our
When Choate and I agreed to speak at Carnegie Hall on the 22d of January, along
with Booker Washington, in the interest of his Tuskegee Institute, I at first took that
thief and assassin, Leopold II King of the Belgians, as my text, and carefully prepared a
speech—wrote it out in full, in fact, several weeks beforehand. But when the appointed
date was drawing near I began to grow suspicious of our Government's attitude toward
Leopold and his fiendishnesses. Twice I went to Washington and conferred with the
State Department. Then I began to suspect that the Congo Reform Association's conviction
that our Government's pledged honor was at stake in the Congo matter was an
exaggeration; that the Association was attaching meanings to certain public documents
connected with the Congo which the strict sense of the documents did not confirm.
A final visit to the State Department settled the matter. The Department had kept its
promise, previously made to the President and to me, that it would examine into the matter
exhaustively and see how our Government stood. It was found that of the fourteen
Christian Governments pledged to watch over Leopold and keep him within treaty limits,
our Government was not one. Our Government was only sentimentally concerned,
not officially, not practically, not by any form of pledge or promise. Our Government
could interfere in the form of prayer or protest, but so could a Sunday-school. I knew
that the Administration was going to be properly and diplomatically polite, and keep out
of the muddle; therefore I privately withdrew from the business of agitating the Congo
matter in the united States, and wrote the Boston branch that I thought it would be a
pity to wring the hearts of this nation further with the atrocities Leopold was committing
upon those helpless black natives of the Congo, since this would be to harrow up
the feelings of the nation to no purpose—since the nation itself could do nothing save
through its Government, and the Government would of course do nothing.