페이지 이미지

designed to impress the voter with the conviction that the public burden is placed upon other shoulders than his. That these laws operate the other way around is of little consequence to him, since they do so by indirection. Taxes are not laid upon sound and equitable principles, but are dictated by political exigencies and controlled by political considerations. The efficient application of funds appropriated for necessary public works or supplies is limited by restrictions imposed by the direction of trade unions, while favored organizations of men may not only combine at their pleasure in conspiracies against trade but the courts are forbidden to prevent or to restrain them. And laws like these are now defended upon the principle that the discriminations they establish are necessary to restore an equilibrium which has been overthrown by combinations outside the law.

Not content with these departures from the principle of equality before the law in domestic legislation, a recent administration has sought to incorporate one of them into the body of modern international law. I refer to Part 13 of the Treaty of Versailles, which exalts a group comprising a large proportion of the people of every country into a supernation endowed with legislative and judicial powers, and invests a permanent court of international justice with exclusive jurisdiction over all questions or disputes relating to that part of the document. Although a fundamenta! part of the League of Nations, and fraught with the most farreaching consequences, it formed, for obvious political reasons, the subject of scant consideration in the violent and protracted discussions of that famous document, and had but little, if any. thing, to do with its final disposition. That this is not now a part of the supreme law of the land is wholly due to opposition to its other features.

The progress of special legislation beginning with corporate influences has been accompanied and stimulated by the segregation of the people into groups or classes chiefly along industrial, but also along racial, commercial and social lines of cleavage, euphemistically designed to promote mutual welfare, elevate moral and mental standards, improve nationalities, raise the standards of living, etc., but actually devoted to the securing of legislation favorable to themselves. These consisting chiefly of manufacturing associations, economic leagues, hyphenated American societies and trade unions, have increased and multiplied through the years. They have finally extended themselves to the voters of every pursuit, and the representatives of every race. They embrace all sorts and conditions of men except the taxpayers. They are militant organizations some 250 in number, each with branches throughout the country, with headquarters in Washington, where their lobbies, christened “committees on legislation," are active and vigilant. They are in daily evidence while Congress is in session. They draft bills, secure their introduction and printing, distribute them at public expense to their subordinate chapters, lodges and organizations, which bombard committees and Congress by wire, by mail and in person, for their speedy enactment. They include the national civil service, whose membership compactly united know what they want, and who no longer beseech but demand compliance with their requirements. All these bodies have the members of both Houses card-indexed as to record, temperament and pedigree. They know whom to cajole, to threaten or to persuade. They know but do not greatly reverence the few whom they cannot reach. Their principal asset is the possession or the assertion of political power. The more formidable this can be made to appear, the more probable the success of their plans. The end and aim of many of these societies is discriminatory legislation either positive or negative. That of most of them is the federal Treasury. The heaviest guns are trained upon that institution. In some respects it is like a beleaguered fortress. The analogy would be more appropriate if its walls and bastions were manned by determined and resolute defenders. But there be few stout hearts among them. The ancient watch-dogs of that venerable department are extinct. They have been corrupted or chloroformed. Their successors either wag their tails or conceal them when marauders approach. But for the conflict of opposing interests and ambitions among these group divisions, the onslaught upon the public purse would ere now have been disastrous. There is neither money nor privilege for all; hence the division of the raiment now as of old is attended with some difficulties. Privileges seldom harmonize. They are apt to overlap each other while operating against the mass. The subject of foreign relations has until recently constituted an executive function. It has been limited only by the authority of Congress to declare war, and of the Senate to consent to the making of treaties. But the close of the World War has been succeeded by the formation of leagues and associations for the promotion and establishment of new and independent principalities consisting of peoples and territory within the dominions of nations with whom America is at peace and with whose domestic affairs we have no legal or moral concern. The membership of these associations comprises American voters, whose primary allegiance would seem to be elsewhere. They are politically militant and personally aggressive. They demand Congressional action to further their objectives. They easily secure the introduction and consideration of joint resolutions to that end whose passage would inevitably follow a roll call, and thereby commit the nation to a policy involving it in grave responsibilities. This gratuitous invasion of executive authority is due entirely to the pressure of political demand. It is characterized by intemperate criticisms of other governments, and by savage denunciations of our own. And these discussions are entirely one-sided. At other times a lonely note of protest has been occasionally heard. But no Senator or Representative, so far as I have observed, has risen either to challenge the authority of Congress to exercise this power or to protest against its prostitution to partisan considerations. No one has warned against the reactions that must ensue from such reckless departures from the domain of our international duties. If America in this new phase of congressional usurpation is possessed of a friend in public life she must search for him in the ranks of the blind and the dumb.

At the same time congressional zeal for the favor of other powerful leagues has promoted legislation far beyond the scope and purpose of the Eighteenth Amendment with powers for enforcement which pay little regard to some of the fundamental rights of the citizen. These are becoming of less and less concern when the demands of organized extremists confront the legislator with the menace of political displeasure.

The citizen concerned for his country or for himself would do well to study the measures upon the calendar of this Congress if he has not time to give attention to the bills jostling each other for consideration in committees. If he cannot or cares not to do either he should acquaint himself with programs of these swarming organizations. He will easily discover that all seek especial profit and advantage of some sort through legislative action, with small concern for the rights of the public or the well-being of the nation. They seemingly are enlisted in a grim struggle of every class for itself, and the devil take the hindmost. In such an atmosphere the moral and heroic virtues suffocate. Honor, duty, patriotism, sacrifice, the common weal, the national interests, cannot long endure the sordid influence of such condi. tions. The mass disintegrates when its components resolve themselves into their constituent elements. Their separation into groups, classes and units destroys the cohesive principle of union. The interest of the class subordinates that of the whole. Mr. George W. Alger declares it to be a fundamental challenge to democracy and a grave danger to our social organization. He calls it the menace of the new privilege, and says that “in the final analysis, the question resolves itself into whether we desire the development in America of class war by recognizing class distinctions, class rights and class privileges, which make not for peace but for inevitable conflict."

Our threatened disintegration into groups is largely due to a radical change in the average citizen’s conception of his relation to the government. The spokesman of both great parties in appealing to the voter have persistently ascribed all public and private ills to governmental causes under adversary administration, and as persistently guaranteed their removal through governmental processes if entrusted with control of its affairs. He has accepted these assurances and is acting upon them that he may realize the rewards so freely promised. He has been educated by this process into the conviction that his government is the primal source of his ills, and should be made the author of his fortunes. If it can deprive him of the opportunities for successful effort, it can also supply him with the wherewithal for every need. It functions adversely to his desires because controlled by interests opposed to his own; it will function favorably to them if that control can be overcome. He has come to regard it as a huge eleemosynary institution, possessed of inexhaustible resources, rich beyond the dreams of avarice, designed to shed its blessings upon those who command the open sesame to its doors. The government exists for him and his fellows. Its obligations are to him. He recognizes no corresponding obligations to it. It has for years done much for other classes and sections because they were united and powerful. It must now do more for him and his group because they, heeding the example, have also organized. We therefore confront the evolution of a political system wherein rival parties eagerly contend for the mastery of their government by bartering its integrity and its resources for the suffrages of the people.

The effect of these sinister conditions upon the public official, and especially upon the lawmaker, has long been apparent. He has practically ceased to be a representative. He has become a delegate. His judgment yields to the demand of what seems to be the desire of the majority, or of the most determined and influential group within his constituency. Independence, moral courage, the needs or the well-being of the whole, have little part in shaping his public conduct. His governing purpose in life is to become his own successor. His one method of achieving this end is to comply with the requirements of the most formidable influences immediately apparent. These he must discover and acknowledge at his peril. He closely watches the tides of local sentiment. He weighs demand and protest with anxious concern. He no longer stands erect for he must keep at least one ear to the ground all the time. He may disdain to corrupt his neighbor with the contents of his purse but does not hesitate to bribe whole constituencies by grants of privilege or of the public funds. Duty, patriotism, constitutional limitations, foreign affairs, the state of the treasury, increasing extravagance, the consequences of encouraging and endowing raiders of the public revenues, the results of immunities and exemptions to groups and classes from the restrictive features of general statutes, and of awarding privilege in a land of equal rights, avail but little “when self the wavering balance holds,” and public office, no longer a public trust, has become a life beacon to the man who holds it.

« 이전계속 »