페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

with the patriotic leaders who have served the cause of their native or adopted land, from Washington to Lincoln. It was to be convinced of the virtues of republican government as the bulwark of the true and genuine liberties of mankind, which would ultimately transmute suffering through ignorance into happiness through light.

Who would not glory in the name American, when it carries with it such illustrative types as Washington, and Franklin, and Samuel Adams, and Jefferson, and such a type as Lincoln, whose very faults were American, as were the virtues of his sad and heroic soul ?

As the lust for domination is in perpetual conflict with the longing to be free, so the tendency to concentration struggles perpetually with the tendency to diffuse.

It is in the maintenance of the equilibrium that the largest liberty consistent with the greatest progress has been found. And this is as true between the States and the Federal Government as between the individual and the State.

But while the play of the two forces is a natural one, the gravitation is to the centre, with human nature as it is.

The passage of the century, with the vast material development of the country, has brought this strikingly home to us in the increased importance of the Federal Government in prestige and power, as compared with that of the state governments in the time of Washington. Position on the Supreme Bench or Cabinet place might still be declined for personal reasons, but not because of preference for the headship of a state government, or of a state tribunal, and no punctilio would cause the governor of to-day to hesitate upon a question of official etiquette when the President visits a state capital.

Rapidity and ease of communication by railroad, telegraph and post; the handling of the vast income and expenditure of the Federal treasury, and the knitting together of the innumerable ties of family, social and business relations, have created a solidarity which demands, in the regulation of commerce, the management of financial affairs and the like, the interposition of Federal authority. The National Banking system, the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Agricultural Department, the Labor and Educational Bureaux, the National Board of Health, indicate the drift toward the exertion of the national will, a natural and perhaps inevitable result of that unity which formed the object of Washington's desire.

But what he wished was solidarity without centralization in destruction of local regulation, for it must not be assumed that he did not realize the vital importance of the preservation of local self-government through the States. To realize its great destiny the country must oppose externally a consolidated front and contain within itself a single people only; but popular government must be preserved, and the doubt was whether a common government of the popular form could embrace so large a sphere.

Hence the earnestness with which Washington invoked the spirit of essential unity through pride and affection to move upon the face of the waters. When the new political world had fairly taken form and substance other considerations would resume their due importance. He was profoundly disturbed by the apprehension that different portions of the population might become, through contradictory interests, in effect rival peoples, and the Union be destroyed by the contention for mastery between them. His sagacious mind perceived the danger arising from the social and economic condition produced by an institution with which the framers of the Constitution had found themselves unable to deal, and he deprecated an appeal to the last reason of kings in preservation of one government over our whole domain.

Yet that appeal was fortunately so long delayed that when it came the civil war determined the perpetuity and indissolubility of the Union, without the loss of distinct and individual existence or of the right of self-government by the States.

This conflict demonstrated that no part of the country was destitute of that old fighting spirit, which rouses at the invocation of force through arms, and which long years of prosperity could not weaken or destroy, and, at the same time, that gigantic armies drawn from the ranks of a citizen soldiery, however skilled they may become in the arts of war, on the cessation of hostilities at once resume the normal cultivation of the arts of peace.

And from an apparent invasion of the carefully constructed scheme to secure popular government, popular government has obtained a wider scope and renewed power, and from an apparent industrial overthrow has come an unexampled industrial development. “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness."

The waste of war is always rapidly replaced, and in its effect on institutions time may repair its injuries without weakening its benefits.

Is it possible to conceive of a more searching test of the wisdom and lasting quality of our form of government than that applied by the civil war ? Is it possible to conceive of a more convincing demonstration than the reconciliation which has followed the conclusion of the struggle, and the complete reinstatement of the. system in harmonious operation over the entire national domain ? No conquered provinces perpetuated personal animosities and by the fact of their existence, through despotic rule over part, changed the government over all. On the contrary, the States, vital parts of the system, and in whose annihilation the system perishes, resumed the relations temporarily suspended, and the continuance of local self-government on its accustomed course prevented the old connection from carrying with it the bitterness of enforced change. It was the triumph of the machinery that its practical working so speedily assumed its normal movement, substantially uninjured by the convulsion that had shaken it.

And as the wheels within the wheels revolve, the aspiration finds a response in every heart: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain that they may live” – live with their reunited brethren, one in the hand of God.

Finally, the country is warned against the baleful effects of the spirit of party as the worst enemy of governments of the popular form.

Franklin wrote that all great affairs are carried on by parties, but that as soon as a party has gained its general point each member becomes intent upon his particular interest; that few in public affairs act from a mere view of the good of their country, and fewer still with a view to the good of mankind. But these observations would, in the light of the history of our country, be regarded as too sweeping, although they suggest grounds for the objection of Washington to the domination of party spirit.

Parties based on different opinions as to the principles on which the Government is to be conducted must necessarily exist. To them we look for that activity in the advocacy of opposing views; that watchfulness over the assertion of authority; that keen debate as to the course most conducive to well-being; essential to the successful growth of popular institutions. That voice of the people which, when duly given and properly ascertained, directs the action of the State is largely brought to declare itself through the instrumentality of party. It is this which corrects that general apathy rightly regarded by De Tocqueville as a serious menace to popular government because conducive to its complete surrender to the domination of its agents if they will but relieve responsibility and

gratify desire. But if the spirit of party is so extreme that party itself becomes a despotism, or, if government itself becomes nothing but organized party, then the danger apprehended by Washington is upon us.

With the increase of population and wealth and power; with the spoils of office dependent upon the elections; with vast interests affected by legislation, as in the care and disposition of public property, the raising of public revenue, the grant or regulation of corporate powers and monopolistic combinations, the danger is that corruption, always insidious, always aggressive, and always dangerous to popular government, will control party machinery to effect its ends, tempt public men into accepting favors at its hands by taking office purchased by its influence, and flourish in rank luxuriance under the shelter of a system which confounds the honest and the patriotic with the cunning and the profligate. An intelligent public opinion ceases to exist when it cannot assert itself, and great measures and great principles are lost when elections degenerate into the mere registration of the decrees of selfishness and greed.

Whenever party spirit becomes so intense as to coinpass such results it will have reached the height denounced by Washington, and will realize in the action it dictates the terrible definition of despotic government, “When the savages wish to eat fruit they cut down a tree and pluck the fruit."

However difficult it may be to fully appreciate the influence of great men upon the cause of civilization, it is impossible to overestimate that of Washington, thus exerted through precept, as well as by example. In the general recognition of to-day of the effect of that which he did, that which he said, that which he was, upon the public conscience, is found the justification of the confident claim that popular government under the form prescribed by the fundamental law has ceased to be an experiment. Neither foreign wars, nor attacks upon either of the coördinate departments, nor the irritation of a disputed national election, no rterritorial aggrandizement, nor the addition of realm after realm to the empire of States, nor sectional controversies, nor the destruction of a great economical, social and political institution, nor the shock of arms in internecine conflict, have impaired the structure of the Government or subverted the orderly rule of the people.

But the deliverance vouchsafed in time of tribulation is as earnestly to be sought in time of prosperity, when material acquisition may deaden the spiritual sense and impede the progress of human elevation.

In the growth of population; in the expansion of commerce, manufactures and the useful arts; in progress in scientific discovery and invention; in the accumulation of wealth; in material advancement of every kind, the century has indeed been marvellous. Steam, electricity, gas, telegraphy, photography, have multiplied the instrumentalities for the exercise of human power. Science, philosophy, literature and art have moved forward along the lines of prior achievement. But wants have multiplied as civilization has advanced, and with multiplied wants and the increased freedom of the individual have come the antagonisms inevitably incident to inequality of condition, even though there is widely extended improvement upon the whole, and often because of it, and added to them the more serious discontents arising from the existence, notwithstanding the immense results of stimulated production, of privation and distress.

The Declaration asserted political equality and the possession of the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the future of the individual was assumed to be secured in securing through government that equality and those rights.

In spite of the violent overthrow of institutions in the French revolution, that great convulsion carried within it the same salutary principles, while a quickening outburst of spiritual energy marked the commencement of the industrial development of England, and all Europe glowed with the fires of sympathy with the wretched and oppressed.

Throughout the hundred years thus introduced, aspiration for the elevation of humanity has not diminished in intensity, and hope of the general attainment of a more exalted plane has gained new strength in the effort to remove or mitigate the ills which have oppressed mankind. The enhanced valuation of human life, the abolition of slavery, the increase of benevolent and charitable institutions, the large public appropriations and private benefactions to the cause of education, the wide diffusion of intelligence, perceptible growth in religion, morality and fraternal kindness, encourage the effort and give solid ground for the hope. And since the protection and regulation of the rights of individuals, as between themselves and as between them and the community, ultimately come to express the will of the latter, it is not unreasonable to contend that the perfectibility of man is bound up in the preservation of republican institutions.

Where the pressure upon the masses has been intense, the drift has been towards increased interference by the State in the attempt

« 이전계속 »