“Now,” said the Judge, “the President has formed a very favorable opinion of you. He is anxious to have you remain at the head of the important bureau over which you are now presiding in such a creditable and satisfactory manner. But you understand that it is a political office. As anxious as the President is to retain you, and as anxious as I am to have him do so, he could not do it and you could neither ask nor expect him to do it, unless you were known to be in sympathy with, and a supporter of, his administration,—at least in the main. Now, you know that I am not only your friend, but that I am a friend to the colored people. I know you are a Republican. So am I; but I am a Cleveland man. Cleveland is a better Republican than Harrison. In supporting Cleveland against Harrison I am no less a Republican. As your friend I would not advise you to do anything that would militate against your interests. Knowing, as you do, that I am not only your friend but also a good Republican, you can at least afford to follow where I lead. I want you, then, to authorize me to say to the President that you are in sympathy with the main purposes of his administration as explained to you by me, and that his decision to retain you in your present position will be fully and keenly appreciated by you.”
In my reply I stated that while I was very grateful to the Judge for his friendly interest in me, and while I highly appreciated the President’s good opinion of me, it would not be possible for me to consent to retain the position I then occupied upon the conditions named.
“If,” I said, “it is the desire of the President to have me remain in charge of that office during his administration or any part thereof, I would be perfectly willing to do so if I should be permitted to remain free from any conditions, pledges, promises or obligations. The conditions suggested mean nothing more nor less than that I shall identify myself with the Democratic party. The President has no office at his disposal the acceptance or retention of which could be a sufficient inducement for me to take such a step as that. I agree with what you have said about Mr. Cleveland, so far as he is personally concerned. I have every reason to believe that he has a friendly interest in the colored people and that he means to do the fair thing by them so far as it may be in his power. But he was elected as a Democrat. He is the head of a National Democratic Administration. No man can be wholly independent of his party,—a fact recognized in the conditions suggested in my own case. I don’t think that Mr. Cleveland is what would be called in my part of the country a good Democrat, because I believe he is utterly devoid of race prejudice, and is not in harmony with those who insist upon drawing the color line in the Democratic party. In my opinion he is in harmony with the Democratic party only on one important public question,—the tariff. On all others,—the so-called race question not excepted,—he is in harmony with what I believe to be genuine Republicanism. Still, as I have already stated, he was elected as a Democrat; and, since he holds that the office now occupied by me is a political one, it ought to be filled by one who is in political harmony with the administration. I am not that man; for I cannot truthfully say that I am in harmony with the main purposes of the administration.”