The Frauds on the Government
November 17, 1869
The Brookln Frauds reinforce The Dispatches oppinion that many government officials remain corrupt.
The "Brooklyn Frauds" have excited as much of interest as the development of crime can well excite in this day of familiarity with every species of rascality. In this case the grade of scoundrels is elevated in proportion to the magnitude of the roguery that has been carried on, and men who regard with contempt the ragged wretch who steals a few shirts from the clothes-line, or show-herrings from the door of a grocery, are found appropriating their tens and hundreds of thousands from the coffers of the Government. As the amounts purloined increase in dignity they involve the higher grades of society, until persons never before suspected, and enjoying the general respect of society, are found to be great rogues. They take the risk, each step upwards requiring a higher premium. The readiness of all classes to yield to the tempting opportunities for fraud in this country is a matter of national concern. The South has not been much led into tentptation, and the instances affecting southern character are few. The fiduciary positions of the Federal Government are filled by imported northern men. They have been corrupt enough ; but their corruptions do not stain southern reputations. We would not say southern people would be entirely proof against temptation and example were they appointed to office, but it maybe a consolation that at a time of such general depravity they have not been led into "temptation." It may at least be said that they preserved their honor and fidelity with marked resolution so long as they were trusted. Buut the truth is, the financial system of the Government is unfortunate. A few subjects have been selected whereupon to raise the enormous revenue demanded for the support of the Government and the payment of the public debt. The taxation imposed within this limited area is so great that those upon whom it falls feel a sense of wrong, and think that it they can relieve themselves by stratagem they are not doing wrong themselves. Foreign imports, tobacco, and whiskey, now sustain the Government and pay the interest on the debt. Cotton was formerly in the list of the articles Government thought fit subjects for excessive burthens; but northern interests suffering thereby, cotton was relieved for the sake of these interests. Tobacco is still the victim along with whiskey. The import duties are heavy, and so are the upon those two last-named articles. The money gleaned from them is enormous in amount, and the process of gathering such sums and transmitting them to the Treasury affords many opportunities for the combinations for stealing, involving insiders and outsider, which, as we have seen, will not go unimproved by those who can seize upon them. There is great injustice in the interna! revenue law. The productive industry of a small number of the people is oppressed with burthens on the ground that what it produces is a luxury-- a pretext merely for a wrong that priorities the great bulk of the nation, which is thus in a great degree relieved from the burthens of the Govern ment. The moral of this national wrong gives tone to the whole process of assessment and collection of the revenue; and while it engenders frauds innumerable, it diminishes the motives to detect and punish them. The denounced interests, which, like convicts with ball and chain, are made to labor for the Government, are left to piilage and oppression amidst the strife for the revenue between the Federal Executive and its agents, and the country at large is quite unsolicitous as to how much the minority are oppressed, or wether the rogues are convicted or not. Were the burthens fairly imposed on all the industry of the country it would produce quite a different state of things. Public opinion would exert a direct influence, and insure a greater degree of accountability and fidelity in the discharge of official duty. There would be a decidedly improved morality. But when the Government sets the example it must not be surprised at faithlessness among itsnagents. The system of revenue needs revising. There can be no hope of putting an end to frauds engendered by the heavy imposi tions upon a few things--the opportunities they offer to rogues, and the stimulation to evade them under a sense of wrong, are too great.
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“The Frauds on the Government,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed September 30, 2022, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/1530.