January 31, 1879
To the Senate:
I transmit herewith a letter of the Secretary of the Treasury, in relation to the suspension of the late collector and naval officer of the port of New York, with accompanying documents.
In addition thereto I respectfully submit the following observations:
The custom-house in New York collects more than two-thirds of all the customs revenues of the Government. Its administration is a matter not of local interest merely, but is of great importance to the people of the whole country. For a long period of time it has been used to manage and control political affairs. The officers suspended by me are, and for several years have been, engaged in the active personal management of the party politics of the city and State of New York. The duties of the offices held by them have been regarded as of subordinate importance to their partisan work. Their offices have been conducted as part of the political machinery under their control. They have made the custom-house a centre of partisan political management.
The custom-house should be a business office. It should be conducted on business principles. General James, the postmaster of New York City, writing on this subject, says: "The post office is a business institution, and should be run as such. It is my deliberate judgment that I and my subordinates can do more for the party of our choice by giving the people of this city a good and efficient postal service than by controlling parties or dictating nominations." The New York custom-house should be placed on the same footing with the New York post office. But under the suspended officers the custom-house would be one of the principal political agencies of the State of New York. To change this, they profess to believe, in the language of Mr. Cornell, in his response, "to surrender their personal and political rights."
Convinced that the people of New York, and of the country generally, wish the New York custom-house to be administered solely with a view to the public interest. It is my purpose to do all in my power to introduce to this great office the reforms which the country desires.
With my information to the facts in the case, and with a deep sense of the responsible obligation imposed upon me by the Constitution, to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed," I regard it as my plain duty to suspend the officers in question, and to make the nominations now before the Senate in order that this important office may be honestly and efficiently executed.