The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg and Other Stories
Travelling With A Reformer
Last spring I went out to Chicago to see the Fair, and although I did not see it my trip was
not wholly lost--there were compensations. In New York I was introduced to a Major in
the regular army who said he was going to the Fair, and we agreed to go together. I had to
go to Boston first, but that did not interfere; he said he would go along and put in the
time. He was a handsome man and built like a gladiator. But his ways were gentle, and
his speech was soft and persuasive. He was companionable, but exceedingly reposeful.
Yes, and wholly destitute of the sense of humour. He was full of interest in everything
that went on around him, but his serenity was indestructible; nothing disturbed him,
nothing excited him.
But before the day was done I found that deep down in him somewhere he had a passion,
quiet as he was--a passion for reforming petty public abuses. He stood for citizenship--it
was his hobby. His idea was that every citizen of the republic ought to consider himself
an unofficial policeman, and keep unsalaried watch and ward over the laws and their
execution. He thought that the only effective way of preserving and protecting public
rights was for each citizen to do his share in preventing or punishing such infringements
of them as came under his personal notice.
It was a good scheme, but I thought it would keep a body in trouble all the time; it
seemed to me that one would be always trying to get offending little officials discharged,
and perhaps getting laughed at for all reward. But he said no, I had the wrong idea: that
there was no occasion to get anybody discharged; that in fact you mustn't get anybody
discharged; that that would itself be a failure; no, one must reform the man--reform him
and make him useful where he was.
'Must one report the offender and then beg his superior not to discharge him, but
reprimand him and keep him?'
'No, that is not the idea; you don't report him at all, for then you risk his bread and butter.
You can act as if you are going to report him-- when nothing else will answer. But that's
an extreme case. That is a sort of force, and force is bad. Diplomacy is the effective thing.
Now if a man has tact--if a man will exercise diplomacy--'
For two minutes we had been standing at a telegraph wicket, and during all this time the
Major had been trying to get the attention of one of the young operators, but they were all
busy skylarking. The Major spoke now, and asked one of them to take his telegram. He
got for reply:
'I reckon you can wait a minute, can't you?' And the skylarking went on.
The Major said yes, he was not in a hurry. Then he wrote another telegram:
'President Western Union Tel. Co.: