The truth was that Ratcliffe had now precisely ten days before the new Cabinet could be set in motion, and in these ten days he must establish his authority over the President so firmly that nothing could shake it. He was diligent in good works. Very soon the court began to feel his hand. If a business letter or a written memorial came in, the President found it easy to endorse: "Referred to the Secretary of the Treasury." If a visitor wanted anything for himself or another, the invariable reply came to be: "Just mention it to Mr. Ratcliffe;" or, "I guess Ratcliffe will see to that."
Before long he even made jokes in a Catonian manner; jokes that were not peculiarly witty, but somewhat gruff and boorish, yet significant of a resigned and self-contented mind. One morning he ordered Ratcliffe to take an iron-clad ship of war and attack the Sioux in Montana, seeing that he was in charge of the army and navy and Indians at once, and Jack of all trades; and again he told a naval officer who wanted a court-martial that he had better get Ratcliffe to sit on him for he was a whole court-martial by himself. That Ratcliffe held his chief in no less contempt than before, was probable but not certain, for he kept silence on the subject before the world, and looked solemn whenever the President was mentioned.
Before three days were over, the President, with a little more than his usual abruptness, suddenly asked him what he knew about this fellow Carson, whom the Pennsylvanians were bothering him to put in his Cabinet. Ratcliffe was guarded: he scarcely knew the man; Mr. Carson was not in politics, he believed, but was pretty respectable--for a Pennsylvanian. The President returned to the subject several times; got out his list of Cabinet officers and figured industriously upon it with a rather perplexed face; called Ratcliffe to help him; and at last the "slate" was fairly broken, and Ratcliffe's eyes gleamed when the President caused his list of nominations to be sent to the Senate on the 5th March, and Josiah B. Carson, of Pennsylvania, was promptly confirmed as Secretary of the Interior.
But his eyes gleamed still more humorously when, a few days afterwards, the President gave him a long list of some two score names, and asked him to find places for them. He assented good-naturedly, with a remark that it might be necessary to make a few removals to provide for these cases.
"Oh, well," said the President, "I guess there's just about as many as that had ought to go out anyway. These are friends of mine; got to be looked after. Just stuff 'em in somewhere."
Even he felt a little awkward about it, and, to do him justice, this was the last that was heard about the fundamental rule of his administration.
Removals were fast and furious, until all Indiana became easy in circumstances. And it was not to be denied that, by one means or another, Ratcliffe's friends did come into their fair share of the public money.
Perhaps the President thought it best to wink at such use of the Treasury patronage for the present, or was already a little overawed by his Secretary.