Political Corruption

Beware what precedes the decay of the ruggedness of states and men,
Justice is always in jeopardy, peace walks amid hourly pitfalls, and of slavery, misery, meanness, the craft of tyrants, and the credulity of the populace, no voice can at any time say, They are not.

There is to me something profoundly affecting in large masses of men following the lead of those who do not believe in men,
The politicians, standing back in the shadow, telling lies,
Empty flesh, putrid mouths, mumbling and 
The eminence of meanness, treachery, sarcasm, hate, greed, indecency—
How mean a person is sometimes a rich man or a man in a great office, even in the presidency!

Thoughts of the frivolous judge—of the corrupt congressman, governor, mayor—of such as these standing helpless and exposed,
O the horrid contrast and the sarcasm of this life—to know who they really are that sit on judges’ benches, and who they perched on the criminal’s box—to know.
And here is a consideration, that the theorist on the evils of society might build a big structure upon:
Let that which stood in front go behind,
Let that which was behind advance to the front,
Let judges and criminals be transposed! let the prison-keepers be put in prison! let those that were prisoners take the keys!
Say! why might they not just as well be transposed?
To me, any judge, or any juror, is equally criminal—and any reputable person is also—and the president is also.

Thoughts, of public opinion,
Of the solemn and murky mystery about the fate of the president,
The president with pale face asking secretly to himself, What will the people say at last?

I joined the stern crowd that still confronts the president with menacing weapons,
And behind the weapons countless dissatisfied faces,
And I will make a song for the ears of the president, full of weapons with menacing points:
See, for his derelictions, the president is menaced face to face by the common people,
Those that look carelessly in the faces of presidents and governors, nonchalant, as to say, Who are you?
Have you outstript the rest? are you the president?
It is a trifle, they will more than arrive there every one, and still pass on.

You, paid to defile the people—
Whom have you slaughter’d lately?
Whose is that blood upon you so wet and sticky?
You liars, mark!
Time, with soon or later superciliousness, disposes of presidents, congressmen, party platforms, and such,
Time clears the stage of each and any mortal shred that thinks itself so potent to its day,
After which, (with precious, golden exceptions once or twice in a century,) all that relates to sir potency is flung to moulder in a burial-vault, and no one bothers himself the least bit about it afterward.

He that was president was buried, and he that is now president shall surely be buried.
They think they are providing planks of a platform on which they shall stand—
Of those planks it would be but retributive justice to make them coffins.

How little you senatorial and executive dignitaries know of us, after all,
How little you realize that the souls of the people ever leap and swell to any thing like a great liberal thought or 
principle, uttered by any well-known personage—and how deeply they love the man that promulges such principles with candor and power. It is wonderful, in your keen search and rivalry for popular favor, that hardly anyone discovers this direct and palpable road there.

NEXT: Defiance and Revolt