New York Times, “Congressional Corruption,” January 10, 1857

Source citation
“Congressional Corruption — Important Movement in the House,” New York Times, January 10, 1857, p. 4: 1.
Newspaper: Publication
New York Daily Times
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Congressional Corruption—Important Movement in the House
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Newspaper: Column
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Meghan Allen, Dickinson College
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The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print.  Spelling and other typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.

Congressional Corruption — Important Movement in the House.

The country is indebted to Hon. Mr. KELSEY, of this State, for calling the attention of the House of Representatives to charges that have been publicly made against the integrity of some of its members. Its obligations are still greater to Mr. PAINE, of North Carolina, for giving to the House and the country, facts within his own personal knowledge, of the utmost importance, in connection with this subject. Mr. KELSEY, it will be seen, merely sent to the Clerk’s desk an editorial, from the DAILY TIMES of the 6th inst., and, based upon its charges, a resolution calling for an investigation. This was met, at the outset, by the usual attempt to sneer the whole thing out of countenance, by stigmatizing it as only a “newspaper assertion,” but this game was blocked by the prompt and manly declaration of Mr. PAINE, that he knew the charge to be substantially true — that a distinct proposition was made to him, by a member of the House of Representatives, for a vote in favor of the Minnesota Land bill, and that Fifteen Hundred Dollars was promised for such a vote. He furthermore declared his readiness, if called upon, to give his testimony upon that subject.

This prompt declaration rather disconcerted sundry honorable gentlemen who had expected to escape the injury under the cover of superior respectability. The usual slur at the newspapers press no longer availed them. They were confronted by one of their own number — by one whose integrity was not only proof against the attempts at corruption which had greater success elsewhere, but who felt sufficient interest in the honor and character of the body of which he is a member to be willing to incur some personal risks in the endeavor to purge it. After his statement, it was not easy to resist inquiry. We presume, therefore, the investigation which was ordered will be entered upon. We cannot say that we have any overweening confidence in the result of such a proceeding. Men who engage in this business of buying votes are generally shrewd enough so to cover their steps as to render it very difficult for legal inquiry to track them. We have no doubt, however, that enough will appear, under any fair and reasonably close investigation, to satisfy the public at large that the charges made were not without foundation, -- that there are members of the House of Representatives who take money for their votes, and who are interested pecuniarily in the success of measures which they endeavor to pass.

We have no desire to make the remarks of members upon the Newspaper Press, in connection with this matter, the occasions of special comment. However mortifying it may be thus to see a large and influential profession, -- one which enlists in its service no inconsiderable portion of the mental ability of the day and which is generally conceded to exert a degree of influence, by no means contemptible, upon that public opinion which is the basis of all our laws, -- so sweepingly stigmatized by men who owe all their importance, and the very position from which they utter their denunciations, to its exertions, we derive consolation form the fact that it is not likely to be annihilated or seriously crippled by their hostility. It can survive the reproach of having elevated them to power, it may safely defy any degree of malignity with which they may choose to requite a service for which they are more justly reproached in other quarters. Meantime, it is not a little amusing to hear Mr. A. K. MARSHALL gravely talk about the danger of his elevating anybody, or anything, into any sort of respectability; and it certainly can excite no other feeling to see Mr. L. D. CAMPBELL turning up his official nose at the “manufactured rags, and lampblack and oil,” which have kept him now, for a good many years, from the insignificance which, but for their friendly aid, would have been his lot. As for the Washington Union, no one will be surprised to find that paper incapable of taking any other view of this subject than the one dictated by its partizan hatreds and expectations.

These charges against the integrity of some men who hold seats in Congress, derive none of their importance form having been made public through the Press. They are neither more nor less worthy of attention on that account. They get into the Press because they rest upon some authority. It is absurd to suppose that a newspaper which depends solely and exclusively upon public favor for its life, will recklessly hazard that favor by indulging in false and malignant charges against any body of men. If there were no other motive to restrain it, it could not afford to do so. It would be sure in the end to suffer by such a course. And, on the contrary, when the editor of a public journal is satisfied, upon evidence sufficient to carry moral conviction, that the interests of the people are betrayed,--that venality and corruption control, to a great extent, the legislation of the country, he is false to the pubic he assumes to represent, as well as to his own conscience, if he fails to expose and denounce it. And whether any legal or official action follows such a course, or not, his action, if dictated by a sense of duty and guided by intelligence and good faith, will not be without effect upon the public mind.

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