Springfield, Ill., April 7, 1895. — Governor Altgeld this afternoon gave free expression to his opinion of Chauncey M. Depew. The occasion for the criticism was the speech recently delivered by Mr. Depew at the Auditorium in Chicago, when he took occasion to find fault not only with the mayor of Chicago, but with Governor Altgeld as well.
In conversation with a reporter this afternoon the governor spoke of Mr. Depew, and he was asked if he had read the speech.
"No, I have not," replied the governor. "Some years ago I listened to Mr. Depew for two hours and came to the conclusion that so long as the Lord insisted on limiting human life to about three score and ten years two hours was all the time that the average man could afford to spend out of the foregoing allotment on Depew."
"Well, he said in substance that you as governor surrendered to the railroad strikers last summer, and that the mayor of Chicago took his instructions from the leader of the strike. Do you care to say anything in reply?"
"Oh, that is not necessary. A deliberate falsehood of that kind does no harm, but has a certain dash about it which challenges admiration. He claims to keep informed on current events. Hence he knew that, although the federal troops were on the ground three days in advance of any serious rioting, and during the whole of the trouble, they not only failed to prevent disorder but proved to be an irritant, and did not prevent the ditching of a train or the throwing of a brick. Had they done the one-hundredth part of what is claimed for them it would not have been necessary to order out the State troops. Yet the mayor found that the federal troops were useless to him in enforcing the law and he was obliged to ask for assistance from the State. Mr. Depew knows that in a few hours after the State was asked the State troops were on the ground, although many of them had to travel over 150 miles to get there. He also knows that inside of a few hours after arriving on the ground they, together with the Chicago police, stopped the rioting and restored order. The State troops and the Chicago police did more in a few hours than all the federal troops did during all the time they were in Chicago.
"Had he been ignorant of the facts and then made such a statement,
483it would have been a blunder which, for him, would be worse than a crime. But the knowledge of the fact that every syllable he uttered was a fabrication not only changed the character of the performance by lifting it above the commonplace, but brought it into harmony with what has apparently been the philosophy of his life." "How is that, governor?" was asked.
"Well, he is the most conspicuous product of the doctrine, ‘do evil that good may come of it’ that this country has ever seen. He first attracted attention many years ago as a lobbyist at Albany, where he for a long time was engaged in the highly honorable business of putting metaphorical collars on the New York legislators, so that to the public they appeared to belong to the Vanderbilts and the New York Central railroad. According to reports this business was reduced to such a science that whenever the New York Central railroad wished to buy a legislator they did not even stop to negotiate with him, but simply put him on the scales and weighed him. A train of slime and corruption was stretched across the State from New York city by way of Albany to Buffalo, and from there it spread over the whole country, corrupting public officers, polluting legislative halls and even filling courts of justice with its odor. This was the beginning of that flood of corruption which is to-day washing the foundations from under our whole governmental fabric.
"No man could be a dealer in this leprosy without soiling his fingers, and I am told that since that time Mr. Derpew has never been seen without gloves."
"If all this is true why was not Mr. Depew sent to prison?" was asked.
"Oh, that would have been vulgar and Mr. Depew would not do so vulgar a thing as go to prison. On the contrary he made of all this a stepping-stone to greatness. He wrapped the stars and stripes about him. He became a red, white and blue orator — he changed his calendar so as to make the Fourth of July embrace 365 days, leaving but six hours for the remainder of the year, and then he started for the white house.
"Subsequently the Vanderbilts, finding him to be a great convenience, made him president of the New York Central railroad and paid him a salary of $50,000 a year. The old railroad men smiled at the idea, but they had not yet learned that one of the most important features of modern railroading is to construct a railroad near court
484houses and operate a line through State capitals. Soon thereafter the Union Stock Yards of Chicago made Mr. Depew an official and gave him $25,000 a year; this in addition to the other salary. It was claimed that he had never seen the stock yards and did not know on which end of a steer the horns belonged. But all this was of no consequence, as, instead of slaughtering cattle, he was expected to earn his salary by slaughtering the innocents who talk about protecting the public.
"I understand he gets still other salaries, and have no doubt he earns them all, for in the art of engineering money out of the public and into the pockets of private individuals he has no superior. And it looks as if his career will compel the American people to adopt an eleventh commandment reading as follows: ‘Go thou and do evil that thou mayest live on the fat of the land, and that thy sleekness may be the wonder of men.’"