The Treason of the Senate

By David Graham Phillips | Go to book overview

The Treason of the Senate
An Editorial Foreword

A PLAIN, honest Californian lived on an island in the mouth of the San Joaquin river. He was a good citizen, a man of family, a hard-working rancher, not without ideas of his own, and excessively proud of the fact that he was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic. He was also proud of his Americanism--so proud, in fact, that when he read in the papers of the corrupt doings of legislators who betrayed their country by assisting the ignoble money power in its predatory plans, he would wince and shake his head and set his teeth. These things preyed upon the mind of the islander. He could hardly talk of anything else.

One day, only a few years ago, the telegraph flashed the news across the continent that a notoriously corrupt politician--a tool of the trusts--had bought a seat in the United States Senate. Our simple-minded ranchman immediately arose in his wrath, went and took pen and paper and laboriously wrote a declaration of independence in which he withdrew himself, his family and his island from the jurisdiction and the protection of the United States. He sent a copy of his declaration to Congress.

Of course, the crude document created a smile at Washington. No reply was ever made to it. The sum total of practical result was that the Grand Army post to which our righteous islander belonged gravely adopted a set of resolutions chiding and deriding him.

The sum total? Well, hardly the sum total, for, as the sturdy rancher still persisted in the idea that his island was no longer under the control of the United States, although he still paid tribute in the form of taxes, the notion went around among his neighbors, up and down the river--men who had always respected him as a good citizen--that in some way his act really did reflect upon the government, or at least, upon the corrupt element in it. So the declaration of one man's independence made an impression. Queer and quixotical as it was, it was still an "object lesson."

Now, of course, we cannot all secede from the Union because of the corruption of our national Senate. It would be obviously visionary and foolish for us to do so on that or on any other account. Besides, there are not islands enough to go around. Our part as citizens of the republic is plain enough. We must stand our ground. We must fight the good fight. Heartsick and depressed as we may be at times because of the spread of graft in high places and its frightfully contaminating influence, we must still hold up our heads.

We must never lose an opportunity to show that as private citizens we are opposed to public plunderers. We should interest ourselves in every scrap of information as to

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