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offices for the purpose of frustrating iniquitous schemes. When it was found, last winter, that the Aldermen and Councilmen of the city must necessarily attend the ball of the Seventh Regiment at the Academy of Music, many respectable persons who had bought tickets sold them again, rather than jostle those magnates. The Rev. Henry Ward Beecher recently said, in the pulpit, that perhaps the government of the city of New York did more moral harm to the people of New York than all the churches together did good. Nevertheless, since we are all disposed to exaggerate evils vaguely known, and since the cry of corruption is habitually raised by corrupt men for purposes of intimidation or revenge, we entered upon our task fully prepared to find the affairs of the city less corruptly administered than they are supposed to be. It is an old remark, that good people are not quite as good, nor bad people as bad, as popular rumor gives them out.
It occurred to us, that perhaps the best way of beginning an investigation of the city government would be to go down to the City Hall and look at it. It proved not to be there. To keep the whole city from falling a prey to the monster, it has been gradually cut to pieces, and scattered over the island, but, like the reptiles whose severed fragments become each a perfect creature, with maw as spacious and appetite as keen as the original worm, so each portion of the divided system is now a self-operating and independent apparatus. In the City Hall, however, the legislature of the city still assembles. It consists of two honorable bodies, – the Board of Aldermen,
seventeen in number, elected for two years, and the Board of Councilmen, twenty-four in number, elected for one year, – each member of both boards receiving a salary of two thousand dollars a year. Considering that they meet but twice a week, always in the afternoon, and that the session averages one hour's duration, these gentlemen cannot be said to be ill paid. They are compensated for their valuable services at twice the rate at which the labors of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States are rewarded. But then it costs those oity legislators something to be elected. The legitimate expenses of an election to either of the boards amount to about three hundred dollars; but many a candidate expends a thou
sand dollars of his own money and several hundred dollars of other people's.
It is to the Chamber of the Board of Councilmen that we beg first to invite the courteous reader. This apartment being in the second story of the building, we pass many open doors on our way to it, through which we see idle men with their feet upon tables smoking cigars. There are few buildings in the world, probably, wherein the consumption of tobacco in all its forms goes on more vigorously during business hours than the City Hall of New York. Smoke comes in clouds from many rooms, and the vessel which Mr. Thackeray used to call the “ expectoratoon” is everywhere seen. If we enter the Councilmen's Chamber a few minutes before the time of beginning the session, we observe many members smoking; and as soon as there is a prospect of an adjournment, the same gentlemen begin to'fondle their cigars, to hand them about, or even toss them to one another, so that when the adjournment does take place not a moment may be lost. Twice we have seen a member light his cigar before an adjournment was carried. The very clerks of this “ honorable body” write out their notes of the proceedings smoking cigars of a flavor beyond that which the pursuit of literature allows.
The Councilmen's Chamber, a lofty and spacious room, provided by the liberal forethought of honest and public-spirited men sixty years ago, is furnished with preposterous magnificence; not “regardless of expense,” however, as some have inconsiderately alleged. On the contrary, expense was evidently the first object sought by the persons who had the work in charge; and, accordingly, wherever a thousand-dollar thing could be put, there you behold it. The apartment is arranged on the plan of the Representatives' Chamber in the Capitol at Washington. The President sits aloft, in a richly canopied recess; below him are four clerks in a row; the members sit in two semicircles, in chairs of the most massive mahogany, at desks of solid elegance. The windows are shaded by curtains heavy with expense, and the carpet is thick with it. In case the session, which begins at 2 P. M., should chance to prolong itself to the evening, there is a chandelier of the most elaborate and ramified description, such as would rejoice the
heart of any contractor to furnish. To remind members, who all have gold watches, of the passage of time, there is a clock of vast size, splendid with gilt and carving. Four staring, fulllength portraits of Fillmore, Clay, Young, and Hamilton Fish disfigure the walls, and the father of his country looks coldly down upon the scene in marble. He never had such furniture either at Mount Vernon or at Philadelphia, nor did he ever see such at Independence Hall. The ceiling is frescoed, and a great gilt eagle spreads his wings over the President's canopy. Besides this gorgeous apartment, the Councilmen have a large and handsomely furnished room for their clerks and books, and a private room, densely carpeted, for themselves, where there is a wardrobe for each member's overcoat and umbrella. These wardrobes are very properly provided with lock and key.
To assist this honorable body" in the business of legislation, there is a “chief clerk," whose salary is $3,000 a year; there is a “ deputy clerk," at $2,000 a year, there is a “first assist
“ ant clerk,” at $1,500 a year; there is a “second assistant clerk,” at the same; there is a “general clerk,” at $1,200 a year; there is an “engrossing clerk," at $ 1,250 a year ; there is a “sergeant-at-arms,” at $1,200 a year; there is a "reader," at the same; there is a “door-keeper,” at $750 a year; there is a “ messenger,” at $1,200 a year; and there is an “assistant messenger," at $1,100 a year. In short, there is not a legislative body in the world more completely provided with all external aids and appliances for the work in hand than the Honorable the Board of Councilmen of the City of New York. To the salaries of these officers the Councilmen add, in the form of gifts for “extra services,” six or seven thousand dollars more, and they bestow upon the reporters of seventeen newspapers, for not reporting their proceedings, two hundred dollars a year each. Perhaps the clerks also are paid for not doing their
. duty, if any duty can be found for so many, for we were present in the chamber, last June, when a communication from the Mayor was read, in which he complained that bills came to him for approval so badly written that he could scarcely read them, and declaring that hereafter he would pay no attention to acts not properly engrossed.
The twenty-four Councilmen who have provided themselves with such ample assistance at such costly accommodation are mostly very young men, - the majority appear to be under thirty. Does the reader remember the pleasant description given by Mr. Hawthorne of the sprightly young bar-keeper who rainbows the glittering drink so 'dexterously from one tumbler to another? That sprightly young bar-keeper might stand as the type of the young men composing this board. There are respectable men in the body. There are six who have never knowingly cast an improper vote. There is one respectable physician, three lawyers, ten mechanics, and only four who acknowledge to be dealers in liquors. But there is a certain air about most of these young Councilmen which, in the eyes of a New-Yorker, stamps them as belonging to what has been styled of late years “our ruling class,” – butcher-boys who have got into politics, bar-keepers who have taken a leading part in primary ward meetings, and young fellows who hang about engine-houses and billiardrooms. A stranger would naturally expect to find in such a board men who have shown ability and acquired distinction in private business. We say, again, that there are honest and estimable men in the body ; but we also assert, that there is not an individual in it who has attained any considerable rank in the vocation which he professes. If we were to print the list here, not a name would be generally recognized. Honest Christopher Pullman, for example, who leads the honest minority of six that vainly oppose every scheme of plunder, is a young man of twenty-seven, just beginning business as a cabinetmaker. Honest William B. White, another of the six, is the manager of a printing-office. Honest Stephen Roberts is a sturdy smith, who has a shop near a wharf for repairing the iron-work of ships. Morris A. Tyng, another of the honest six, is a young lawyer getting into practice. We make no remark upon these facts, being only desirous to show the business standing of the men to whom the citizens of New York have confided the spending of sundry millions per annum. The majority of this board are about equal, in point of experience and ability, to the management of an oyster-stand in a market. Such expressions as “them laws," " sot the table,” “ 71st rigment," and " them arguments is played out,” may be heard on almost any Monday or Thursday afternoon, between two and three o'clock, in this sumptuous chamber.
But what most strikes and puzzles the stranger is the crowd of spectators outside the railing. It is the rogues' gallery come to life, with here and there an honest-looking laboror wearing the garments of his calling. We attended six sessions of this “ honorable body,” and on every occasion there was the same kind of crowd looking on, who sat the session out. Frequently we observed looks and words of recognition pass between the members and this curious audience; and, once, we saw a member gayly toss a paper of tobacco to one of them, who caught it with pleasing dexterity. We are unable to explain the regular presence of this great number of the unornamental portion of our fellow-beings, since we could never see any indications that any of the crowd had an interest in the proceedings. As the debates are never reported by any one of the seventeen reporters who are paid two hundred dollars a year for not doing it, and as the educated portion of the community never attend the sessions, this board sits, practically, with closed doors. Their schemes are both conceived and executed in secrecy, though the door is open to all who wish to enter. This is the more surprising, because almost every session of the board furnishes the material for a report, which an able and publicspirited journalist would gladly buy at the highest price paid for such work in any city.
Debates is a ludicrous word to apply to the proceedings of the Councilmen. Most of the business done by them is pushed through without the slightest discussion, and is of such a nature that members cannot be prepared to discuss it. The most reckless haste marks every part of the performance. A member proposes that certain lots be provided with curbstones ; another, that a free drinking hydrant be placed on a certain corner five miles up town; and another, that certain blocks of a distant street be paved with Belgian pavement. Respecting the utility of these works, members generally know nothing and can say nothing ; nor are they proper objects of legislation. The reso'lutions are adopted, usually, without a word of explanation, and at a speed that must be seen to be appreciated. The first and