Infomotions, Inc.The Promise of American Life / Croly, Herbert David, 1869-1930

Author: Croly, Herbert David, 1869-1930
Title: The Promise of American Life
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): democracy; american; economic; democratic; national; policy; political; individual; system; social; organization; american democracy
Contributor(s): Borrow, George Henry, 1803-1881 [Translator]
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Title: The Promise Of American Life

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New York

       *       *       *       *       *

Set up and electrotyped. Published November, 1909. Reprinted
June, 1910; April, 1911; March, 1912.

Norwood Press
J.S. Cushing Co.--Berwick & Smith Co.
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.























The average American is nothing if not patriotic. "The Americans are
filled," says Mr. Emil Reich in his "Success among the Nations," "with
such an implicit and absolute confidence in their Union and in their
future success that any remark other than laudatory is inacceptable to
the majority of them. We have had many opportunities of hearing public
speakers in America cast doubts upon the very existence of God and of
Providence, question the historic nature or veracity of the whole fabric
of Christianity; but never has it been our fortune to catch the
slightest whisper of doubt, the slightest want of faith, in the chief
God of America--unlimited belief in the future of America." Mr. Reich's
method of emphasis may not be very happy, but the substance of what he
says is true. The faith of Americans in their own country is religious,
if not in its intensity, at any rate in its almost absolute and
universal authority. It pervades the air we breathe. As children we hear
it asserted or implied in the conversation of our elders. Every new
stage of our educational training provides some additional testimony on
its behalf. Newspapers and novelists, orators and playwrights, even if
they are little else, are at least loyal preachers of the Truth. The
skeptic is not controverted; he is overlooked. It constitutes the kind
of faith which is the implication, rather than the object, of thought,
and consciously or unconsciously it enters largely into our personal
lives as a formative influence. We may distrust and dislike much that is
done in the name of our country by our fellow-countrymen; but our
country itself, its democratic system, and its prosperous future are
above suspicion.

Of course, Americans have no monopoly of patriotic enthusiasm and good
faith. Englishmen return thanks to Providence for not being born
anything but an Englishman, in churches and ale-houses as well as in
comic operas. The Frenchman cherishes and proclaims the idea that France
is the most civilized modern country and satisfies best the needs of a
man of high social intelligence. The Russian, whose political and social
estate does not seem enviable to his foreign contemporaries, secretes a
vision of a mystically glorified Russia, which condemns to comparative
insipidity the figures of the "Pax Britannica" and of "La Belle France"
enlightening the world. Every nation, in proportion as its nationality
is thoroughly alive, must be leavened by the ferment of some such faith.
But there are significant differences between the faith of, say, an
Englishman in the British Empire and that of an American in the Land of
Democracy. The contents of an Englishman's national idea tends to be
more exclusive. His patriotism is anchored to the historical
achievements of Great Britain and restricted thereby. As a good patriot
he is bound to be more preoccupied with the inherited fabric of national
institutions and traditions than he is with the ideal and more than
national possibilities of the future. This very loyalty to the national
fabric does, indeed, imply an important ideal content; but the national
idealism of an Englishman, a German, or even a Frenchman, is heavily
mortgaged to his own national history and cannot honestly escape the
debt. The good patriot is obliged to offer faithful allegiance to a
network of somewhat arbitrary institutions, social forms, and
intellectual habits--on the ground that his country is exposed to more
serious dangers from premature emancipation than it is from stubborn
conservatism. France is the only European country which has sought to
make headway towards a better future by means of a revolutionary break
with its past; and the results of the French experiment have served for
other European countries more as a warning than as an example.

The higher American patriotism, on the other hand, combines loyalty to
historical tradition and precedent with the imaginative projection of an
ideal national Promise. The Land of Democracy has always appealed to its
more enthusiastic children chiefly as a land of wonderful and more than
national possibilities. "Neither race nor tradition," says Professor
Hugo Muensterberg in his volume on "The Americans," "nor the actual past,
binds the American to his countrymen, but rather the future which
together they are building." This vision of a better future is not,
perhaps, as unclouded for the present generation of Americans as it was
for certain former generations; but in spite of a more friendly
acquaintance with all sorts of obstacles and pitfalls, our country is
still figured in the imagination of its citizens as the Land of Promise.
They still believe that somehow and sometime something better will
happen to good Americans than has happened to men in any other country;
and this belief, vague, innocent, and uninformed though it be, is the
expression of an essential constituent in our national ideal. The past
should mean less to a European than it does to an American, and the
future should mean more. To be sure, American life cannot with impunity
be wrenched violently from its moorings any more than the life of a
European country can; but our American past, compared to that of any
European country, has a character all its own. Its peculiarity consists,
not merely in its brevity, but in the fact that from the beginning it
has been informed by an idea. From the beginning Americans have been
anticipating and projecting a better future. From the beginning the Land
of Democracy has been figured as the Land of Promise. Thus the
American's loyalty to the national tradition rather affirms than denies
the imaginative projection of a better future. An America which was not
the Land of Promise, which was not informed by a prophetic outlook and a
more or less constructive ideal, would not be the America bequeathed to
us by our forefathers. In cherishing the Promise of a better national
future the American is fulfilling rather than imperiling the substance
of the national tradition.

When, however, Americans talk of their country as the Land of Promise, a
question may well be raised as to precisely what they mean. They mean,
of course, in general, that the future will have something better in
store for them individually and collectively than has the past or the
present; but a very superficial analysis of this meaning discloses
certain ambiguities. What are the particular benefits which this better
future will give to Americans either individually or as a nation? And
how is this Promise to be fulfilled? Will it fulfill itself, or does it
imply certain responsibilities? If so, what responsibilities? When we
speak of a young man's career as promising, we mean that his abilities
and opportunities are such that he is likely to become rich or famous or
powerful; and this judgment does not of course imply, so far as we are
concerned, any responsibility. It is merely a prophecy based upon past
performances and proved qualities. But the career, which from the
standpoint of an outsider is merely an anticipation, becomes for the
young man himself a serious task. For him, at all events, the better
future will not merely happen. He will have to do something to deserve
it. It may be wrecked by unforeseen obstacles, by unsuspected
infirmities, or by some critical error of judgment. So it is with the
Promise of American life. From the point of view of an immigrant this
Promise may consist of the anticipation of a better future, which he can
share merely by taking up his residence on American soil; but once he
has become an American, the Promise can no longer remain merely an
anticipation. It becomes in that case a responsibility, which requires
for its fulfillment a certain kind of behavior on the part of himself
and his fellow-Americans. And when we attempt to define the Promise of
American life, we are obliged, also, to describe the kind of behavior
which the fulfillment of the Promise demands.

The distinction between the two aspects of America as a Land of Promise
made in the preceding paragraph is sufficiently obvious, but it is
usually slurred by the average good American patriot. The better future,
which is promised for himself, his children, and for other Americans, is
chiefly a matter of confident anticipation. He looks upon it very much
as a friendly outsider might look on some promising individual career.
The better future is understood by him as something which fulfills
itself. He calls his country, not only the Land of Promise, but the Land
of Destiny. It is fairly launched on a brilliant and successful career,
the continued prosperity of which is prophesied by the very momentum of
its advance. As Mr. H.G. Wells says in "The Future in America," "When
one talks to an American of his national purpose, he seems a little at a
loss; if one speaks of his national destiny, he responds with alacrity."
The great majority of Americans would expect a book written about "The
Promise of American Life" to contain chiefly a fanciful description of
the glorious American future--a sort of Utopia up-to-date, situated in
the land of Good-Enough, and flying the Stars and Stripes. They might
admit in words that the achievement of this glorious future implied
certain responsibilities, but they would not regard the admission either
as startling or novel. Such responsibilities were met by our
predecessors; they will be met by our followers. Inasmuch as it is the
honorable American past which prophesies on behalf of the better
American future, our national responsibility consists fundamentally in
remaining true to traditional ways of behavior, standards, and ideals.
What we Americans have to do in order to fulfill our national Promise is
to keep up the good work--to continue resolutely and cheerfully along
the appointed path.

The reader who expects this book to contain a collection of patriotic
prophecies will be disappointed. I am not a prophet in any sense of the
word, and I entertain an active and intense dislike of the foregoing
mixture of optimism, fatalism, and conservatism. To conceive the better
American future as a consummation which will take care of itself,--as
the necessary result of our customary conditions, institutions, and
ideas,--persistence in such a conception is admirably designed to
deprive American life of any promise at all. The better future which
Americans propose to build is nothing if not an idea which must in
certain essential respects emancipate them from their past. American
history contains much matter for pride and congratulation, and much
matter for regret and humiliation. On the whole, it is a past of which
the loyal American has no reason to feel ashamed, chiefly because it has
throughout been made better than it was by the vision of a better
future; and the American of to-day and to-morrow must remain true to
that traditional vision. He must be prepared to sacrifice to that
traditional vision even the traditional American ways of realizing it.
Such a sacrifice is, I believe, coming to be demanded; and unless it is
made, American life will gradually cease to have any specific Promise.

The only fruitful promise of which the life of any individual or any
nation can be possessed, is a promise determined by an ideal. Such a
promise is to be fulfilled, not by sanguine anticipations, not by a
conservative imitation of past achievements, but by laborious,
single-minded, clear-sighted, and fearless work. If the promising career
of any individual is not determined by a specific and worthy purpose, it
rapidly drifts into a mere pursuit of success; and even if such a
pursuit is successful, whatever promise it may have had, is buried in
the grave of its triumph. So it is with a nation. If its promise is
anything more than a vision of power and success, that addition must
derive its value from a purpose; because in the moral world the future
exists only as a workshop in which a purpose is to be realized. Each of
the several leading European nations is possessed of a specific purpose
determined for the most part by the pressure of historical
circumstances; but the American nation is committed to a purpose which
is not merely of historical manufacture. It is committed to the
realization of the democratic ideal; and if its Promise is to be
fulfilled, it must be prepared to follow whithersoever that ideal may

No doubt Americans have in some measure always conceived their national
future as an ideal to be fulfilled. Their anticipations have been
uplifting as well as confident and vainglorious. They have been
prophesying not merely a safe and triumphant, but also a better, future.
The ideal demand for some sort of individual and social amelioration has
always accompanied even their vainest flights of patriotic prophecy.
They may never have sufficiently realized that this better future, just
in so far as it is better, will have to be planned and constructed
rather than fulfilled of its own momentum; but at any rate, in seeking
to disentangle and emphasize the ideal implications of the American
national Promise, I am not wholly false to the accepted American
tradition. Even if Americans have neglected these ideal implications,
even if they have conceived the better future as containing chiefly a
larger portion of familiar benefits, the ideal demand, nevertheless, has
always been palpably present; and if it can be established as the
dominant aspect of the American tradition, that tradition may be
transformed, but it will not be violated.

Furthermore, much as we may dislike the American disposition to take the
fulfillment of our national Promise for granted, the fact that such a
disposition exists in its present volume and vigor demands respectful
consideration. It has its roots in the salient conditions of American
life, and in the actual experience of the American people. The national
Promise, as it is popularly understood, has in a way been fulfilling
itself. If the underlying conditions were to remain much as they have
been, the prevalent mixture of optimism, fatalism, and conservatism
might retain a formidable measure of justification; and the changes
which are taking place in the underlying conditions and in the scope of
American national experience afford the most reasonable expectation that
this state of mind will undergo a radical alteration. It is new
conditions which are forcing Americans to choose between the conception
of their national Promise as a process and an ideal. Before, however,
the nature of these novel conditions and their significance can be
considered, we must examine with more care the relation between the
earlier American economic and social conditions and the ideas and
institutions associated with them. Only by a better understanding of the
popular tradition, only by an analysis of its merits and its
difficulties, can we reach a more consistent and edifying conception of
the Promise of American life.



All the conditions of American life have tended to encourage an easy,
generous, and irresponsible optimism. As compared to Europeans,
Americans have been very much favored by circumstances. Had it not been
for the Atlantic Ocean and the virgin wilderness, the United States
would never have been the Land of Promise. The European Powers have been
obliged from the very conditions of their existence to be more
circumspect and less confident of the future. They are always by way of
fighting for their national security and integrity. With possible or
actual enemies on their several frontiers, and with their land fully
occupied by their own population, they need above all to be strong, to
be cautious, to be united, and to be opportune in their policy and
behavior. The case of France shows the danger of neglecting the sources
of internal strength, while at the same time philandering with ideas
and projects of human amelioration. Bismarck and Cavour seized the
opportunity of making extremely useful for Germany and Italy the
irrelevant and vacillating idealism and the timid absolutism of the
third Napoleon. Great Britain has occupied in this respect a better
situation than has the Continental Powers. Her insular security made her
more independent of the menaces and complications of foreign politics,
and left her free to be measurably liberal at home and immeasurably
imperial abroad. Yet she has made only a circumspect use of her freedom.
British liberalism was forged almost exclusively for the British people,
and the British peace for colonial subjects. Great Britain could have
afforded better than France to tie its national life to an over-national
idea, but the only idea in which Britons have really believed was that
of British security, prosperity, and power. In the case of our own
country the advantages possessed by England have been amplified and
extended. The United States was divided from the mainland of Europe not
by a channel but by an ocean. Its dimensions were continental rather
than insular. We were for the most part freed from alien interference,
and could, so far as we dared, experiment with political and social
ideals. The land was unoccupied, and its settlement offered an
unprecedented area and abundance of economic opportunity. After the
Revolution the whole political and social organization was renewed, and
made both more serviceable and more flexible. Under such happy
circumstances the New World was assuredly destined to become to its
inhabitants a Land of Promise,--a land in which men were offered a
fairer chance and a better future than the best which the Old World
could afford.

No more explicit expression has ever been given to the way in which the
Land of Promise was first conceived by its children than in the "Letters
of an American Farmer." This book was written by a French immigrant,
Hector St. John de Crevecoeur before the Revolution, and is informed by
an intense consciousness of the difference between conditions in the Old
and in the New World. "What, then, is an American, this new man?" asks
the Pennsylvanian farmer. "He is either a European or the descendant of
a European; hence the strange mixture of blood, which you will find in
no other country....

"He becomes an American by being received in the broad lap of our great
_Alma Mater_. Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race
of men, whose labors and prosperity will one day cause great changes in
the world. Here the rewards of his industry follow with equal steps the
progress of his labor; this labor is founded on the basis of
_self-interest_; can it want a stronger allurement? Wives and children,
who before in vain demanded a morsel of bread, now fat and frolicsome,
gladly help their father to clear those fields, whence exuberant crops
are to arise to feed them all; without any part being claimed either by
a despotic prince, a rich abbot, or a mighty lord.... The American is a
new man, who acts upon new principles; he must therefore entertain new
ideas and form new opinions. From involuntary idleness, servile
dependence, penury, and useless labor, he has passed to toils of a very
different nature rewarded by ample subsistence. This is an American."

Although the foregoing is one of the first, it is also one of the most
explicit descriptions of the fundamental American; and it deserves to be
analyzed with some care. According to this French convert the American
is a man, or the descendant of a man, who has emigrated from Europe
chiefly because he expects to be better able in the New World to enjoy
the fruits of his own labor. The conception implies, consequently, an
Old World, in which the ordinary man cannot become independent and
prosperous, and, on the other hand, a New World in which economic
opportunities are much more abundant and accessible. America has been
peopled by Europeans primarily because they expected in that country to
make more money more easily. To the European immigrant--that is, to the
aliens who have been converted into Americans by the advantages of
American life--the Promise of America has consisted largely in the
opportunity which it offered of economic independence and prosperity.
Whatever else the better future, of which Europeans anticipate the
enjoyment in America, may contain, these converts will consider
themselves cheated unless they are in a measure relieved of the curse of

This conception of American life and its Promise is as much alive to-day
as it was in 1780. Its expression has no doubt been modified during
four generations of democratic political independence, but the
modification has consisted of an expansion and a development rather than
of a transposition. The native American, like the alien immigrant,
conceives the better future which awaits himself and other men in
America as fundamentally a future in which economic prosperity will be
still more abundant and still more accessible than it has yet been
either here or abroad. No alteration or attenuation of this demand has
been permitted. With all their professions of Christianity their
national idea remains thoroughly worldly. They do not want either for
themselves or for their descendants an indefinite future of poverty and
deprivation in this world, redeemed by beatitude in the next. The
Promise, which bulks so large in their patriotic outlook, is a promise
of comfort and prosperity for an ever increasing majority of good
Americans. At a later stage of their social development they may come to
believe that they have ordered a larger supply of prosperity than the
economic factory is capable of producing. Those who are already rich and
comfortable, and who are keenly alive to the difficulty of distributing
these benefits over a larger social area, may come to tolerate the idea
that poverty and want are an essential part of the social order. But as
yet this traditional European opinion has found few echoes in America,
even among the comfortable and the rich. The general belief still is
that Americans are not destined to renounce, but to enjoy.

Let it be immediately added, however, that this economic independence
and prosperity has always been absolutely associated in the American
mind with free political institutions. The "American Farmer" traced the
good fortune of the European immigrant in America, not merely to the
abundance of economic opportunity, but to the fact that a ruling class
of abbots and lords had no prior claim to a large share of the products
of the soil. He did not attach the name of democracy to the improved
political and social institutions of America, and when the political
differences between Great Britain and her American colonies culminated
in the Revolutionary War, the converted "American Farmer" was filled
with anguish at this violent assertion of the "New Americanism."
Nevertheless he was fully alive to the benefits which the immigrant
enjoyed from a larger dose of political and social freedom; and so, of
course, have been all the more intelligent of the European converts to
Americanism. A certain number of them, particularly during the early
years, came over less for the purpose of making money than for that of
escaping from European political and religious persecution. America has
always been conventionally conceived, not merely as a land of abundant
and accessible economic opportunities, but also as a refuge for the
oppressed; and the immigrant ships are crowded both during times of
European famine and during times of political revolution and

Inevitably, however, this aspect of the American Promise has undergone
certain important changes since the establishment of our national
independence. When the colonists succeeded in emancipating themselves
from political allegiance to Great Britain, they were confronted by the
task of organizing a stable and efficient government without encroaching
on the freedom, which was even at that time traditionally associated
with American life. The task was by no means an easy one, and required
for its performance the application of other political principles than
that of freedom. The men who were responsible for this great work were
not, perhaps, entirely candid in recognizing the profound modifications
in their traditional ideas which their constructive political work had
implied; but they were at all events fully aware of the great importance
of their addition to the American idea. That idea, while not ceasing to
be at bottom economic, became more than ever political and social in its
meaning and contents. The Land of Freedom became in the course of time
also the Land of Equality. The special American political system, the
construction of which was predicted in the "Farmer's" assertion of the
necessary novelty of American modes of thought and action, was made
explicitly, if not uncompromisingly, democratic; and the success of this
democratic political system was indissolubly associated in the American
mind with the persistence of abundant and widely distributed economic
prosperity. Our democratic institutions became in a sense the guarantee
that prosperity would continue to be abundant and accessible. In case
the majority of good Americans were not prosperous, there would be grave
reasons for suspecting that our institutions were not doing their duty.

The more consciously democratic Americans became, however, the less they
were satisfied with a conception of the Promised Land, which went no
farther than a pervasive economic prosperity guaranteed by free
institutions. The amelioration promised to aliens and to future
Americans was to possess its moral and social aspects. The implication
was, and still is, that by virtue of the more comfortable and less
trammeled lives which Americans were enabled to lead, they would
constitute a better society and would become in general a worthier set
of men. The confidence which American institutions placed in the
American citizen was considered equivalent to a greater faith in the
excellence of human nature. In our favored land political liberty and
economic opportunity were by a process of natural education inevitably
making for individual and social amelioration. In Europe the people did
not have a fair chance. Population increased more quickly than economic
opportunities, and the opportunities which did exist were largely
monopolized by privileged classes. Power was lodged in the hands of a
few men, whose interest depended upon keeping the people in a condition
of economic and political servitude; and in this way a divorce was
created between individual interest and social stability and welfare.
The interests of the privileged rulers demanded the perpetuation of
unjust institutions. The interest of the people demanded a revolutionary
upheaval. In the absence of such a revolution they had no sufficient
inducement to seek their own material and moral improvement. The theory
was proclaimed and accepted as a justification for this system of
popular oppression that men were not to be trusted to take care of
themselves--that they could be kept socially useful only by the severest
measures of moral, religious, and political discipline. The theory of
the American democracy and its practice was proclaimed to be the
antithesis of this European theory and practice. The people were to be
trusted rather than suspected and disciplined. They must be tied to
their country by the strong bond of self-interest. Give them a fair
chance, and the natural goodness of human nature would do the rest.
Individual and public interest will, on the whole, coincide, provided no
individuals are allowed to have special privileges. Thus the American
system will be predestined to success by its own adequacy, and its
success will constitute an enormous stride towards human amelioration.
Just because our system is at bottom a thorough test of the ability of
human nature to respond admirably to a fair chance, the issue of the
experiment is bound to be of more than national importance. The American
system stands for the highest hope of an excellent worldly life that
mankind has yet ventured,--the hope that men can be improved without
being fettered, that they can be saved without even vicariously being
nailed to the cross.

Such are the claims advanced on behalf of the American system; and
within certain limits this system has made good. Americans have been
more than usually prosperous. They have been more than usually free.
They have, on the whole, made their freedom and prosperity contribute to
a higher level of individual and social excellence. Most assuredly the
average Americanized American is neither a more intelligent, a wiser,
nor a better man than the average European; but he is likely to be a
more energetic and hopeful one. Out of a million well-established
Americans, taken indiscriminately from all occupations and conditions,
compared to a corresponding assortment of Europeans, a larger proportion
of the former will be leading alert, active, and useful lives. Within a
given social area there will be a smaller amount of social wreckage and
a larger amount of wholesome and profitable achievement. The mass of the
American people is, on the whole, more deeply stirred, more thoroughly
awake, more assertive in their personal demands, and more confident of
satisfying them. In a word, they are more alive, and they must be
credited with the moral and social benefit attaching to a larger amount
of vitality.

Furthermore, this greater individual vitality, although intimately
connected with the superior agricultural and industrial opportunities of
a new country, has not been due exclusively to such advantages.
Undoubtedly the vast areas of cheap and fertile land which have been
continuously available for settlement have contributed, not only to the
abundance of American prosperity, but also to the formation of American
character and institutions; and undoubtedly many of the economic and
political evils which are now becoming offensively obtrusive are
directly or indirectly derived from the gradual monopolization of
certain important economic opportunities. Nevertheless, these
opportunities could never have been converted so quickly into
substantial benefits had it not been for our more democratic political
and social forms. A privileged class does not secure itself in the
enjoyment of its advantages merely by legal intrenchments. It depends
quite as much upon disqualifying the "lower classes" from utilizing
their opportunities by a species of social inhibition. The rail-splitter
can be so easily encouraged to believe that rail-splitting is his
vocation. The tragedy in the life of Mr. J.M. Barrie's "Admirable
Crichton" was not due to any legal prohibition of his conversion in
England, as on the tropic island, into a veritable chief, but that on
English soil he did not in his own soul want any such elevation and
distinction. His very loyalty to the forms and fabric of English life
kept him fatuously content with the mean truckling and meaner
domineering of his position of butler. On the other hand, the loyalty of
an American to the American idea would tend to make him aggressive and
self-confident. Our democratic prohibition of any but occasional social
distinctions and our democratic dislike to any suggestion of authentic
social inferiority have contributed as essentially to the fluid and
elastic substance of American life as have its abundant and accessible
economic opportunities.

The increased momentum of American life, both in its particles and its
mass, unquestionably has a considerable moral and social value. It is
the beginning, the only possible beginning, of a better life for the
people as individuals and for society. So long as the great majority of
the poor in any country are inert and are laboring without any hope of
substantial rewards in this world, the whole associated life of that
community rests on an equivocal foundation. Its moral and social order
is tied to an economic system which starves and mutilates the great
majority of the population, and under such conditions its religion
necessarily becomes a spiritual drug, administered for the purpose of
subduing the popular discontent and relieving the popular misery. The
only way the associated life of such a community can be radically
improved is by the leavening of the inert popular mass. Their wants must
be satisfied, and must be sharpened and increased with the habit of
satisfaction. During the past hundred years every European state has
made a great stride in the direction of arousing its poorer citizens to
be more wholesomely active, discontented, and expectant; but our own
country has succeeded in traveling farther in this direction than has
any other, and it may well be proud of its achievement. That the
American political and economic system has accomplished so much on
behalf of the ordinary man does constitute the fairest hope that men
have been justified in entertaining of a better worldly order; and any
higher social achievement, which America may hereafter reach, must
depend upon an improved perpetuation of this process. The mass of
mankind must be aroused to still greater activity by a still more
abundant satisfaction of their needs, and by a consequent increase of
their aggressive discontent.

The most discriminating appreciation, which I have ever read, of the
social value of American national achievement has been written by Mr.
John B. Crozier; and the importance of the matter is such that it will
be well to quote it at length. Says Mr. Crozier in his chapter on
"Reconstruction in America," in the third volume of his "History of
Intellectual Development": "There [in America] a natural equality of
sentiment, springing out of and resting on a broad equality of material
and social conditions, has been the heritage of the people from the
earliest times.... This broad natural equality of sentiment, rooted in
equal material opportunities, equal education, equal laws, equal
opportunities, and equal access to all positions of honor and trust, has
just sufficient inequality mixed with it--in the shape of greater or
less mental endowments, higher or lower degrees of culture, larger or
smaller material possessions, and so on--to keep it sweet and human;
while at the same time it is all so gently graded, and marked by
transitions so easy and natural, that no gap was anywhere to be
discovered on which to found an order of privilege or caste. Now an
equality like this, with the erectness, independence, energy, and
initiative it brings with it, in men, sprung from the loins of an
imperial race is a possession, not for a nation only, but for
civilization itself and for humanity. It is the distinct raising of the
entire body of a people to a higher level, and so brings civilization a
stage nearer its goal. It is the first successful attempt in recorded
history to get a healthy, natural equality which should reach down to
the foundations of the state and to the great masses of men; and in its
results corresponds to what in other lands (excepting, perhaps, in
luxury alone) has been attained only by the few,--the successful and the
ruling spirits. To lose it, therefore, to barter it or give it away,
would be in the language of Othello 'such deep damnation that nothing
else could match,' and would be an irreparable loss to the world and to

Surely no nation can ask for a higher and more generous tribute than
that which Mr. Crozier renders to America in the foregoing quotation,
and its value is increased by the source from which it comes. It is
written by a man who, as a Canadian, has had the opportunity of knowing
American life well without being biased in its favor, and who, as the
historian of the intellectual development of our race, has made an
exhaustive study of the civilizations both of the ancient and the modern
worlds. Nothing can be soberly added to it on behalf of American
national achievement, but neither should it be diminished by any
important idea and phrase. The American economic, political, and social
organization has given to its citizens the benefits of material
prosperity, political liberty, and a wholesome natural equality; and
this achievement is a gain, not only to Americans, but to the world and
to civilization.



In the preceding section I have been seeking to render justice to the
actual achievements of the American nation. A work of manifest
individual and social value has been wrought; and this work, not only
explains the expectant popular outlook towards the future, but it
partially determines the character as distinguished from the continued
fulfillment of the American national Promise. The better future,
whatever else it may bring, must bring at any rate a continuation of the
good things of the past. The drama of its fulfillment must find an
appropriate setting in the familiar American social and economic
scenery. No matter how remote the end may be, no matter what unfamiliar
sacrifices may eventually be required on its behalf, the substance of
the existing achievement must constitute a veritable beginning, because
on no other condition can the attribution of a peculiar Promise to
American life find a specific warrant. On no other condition would our
national Promise constitute more than an admirable but irrelevant moral
and social aspiration.

The moral and social aspiration proper to American life is, of course,
the aspiration vaguely described by the word democratic; and the actual
achievement of the American nation points towards an adequate and
fruitful definition of the democratic ideal. Americans are usually
satisfied by a most inadequate verbal description of democracy, but
their national achievement implies one which is much more comprehensive
and formative. In order to be true to their past, the increasing comfort
and economic independence of an ever increasing proportion of the
population must be secured, and it must be secured by a combination of
individual effort and proper political organization. Above all, however,
this economic and political system must be made to secure results of
moral and social value. It is the seeking of such results which converts
democracy from a political system into a constructive social ideal; and
the more the ideal significance of the American national Promise is
asserted and emphasized, the greater will become the importance of
securing these moral and social benefits.

The fault in the vision of our national future possessed by the ordinary
American does not consist in the expectation of some continuity of
achievement. It consists rather in the expectation that the familiar
benefits will continue to accumulate automatically. In his mind the
ideal Promise is identified with the processes and conditions which
hitherto have very much simplified its fulfillment, and he fails
sufficiently to realize that the conditions and processes are one thing
and the ideal Promise quite another. Moreover, these underlying social
and economic conditions are themselves changing, in such wise that
hereafter the ideal Promise, instead of being automatically fulfilled,
may well be automatically stifled. For two generations and more the
American people were, from the economic point of view, most happily
situated. They were able, in a sense, to slide down hill into the valley
of fulfillment. Economic conditions were such that, given a fair start,
they could scarcely avoid reaching a desirable goal. But such is no
longer the case. Economic conditions have been profoundly modified, and
American political and social problems have been modified with them. The
Promise of American life must depend less than it did upon the virgin
wilderness and the Atlantic Ocean, for the virgin wilderness has
disappeared, and the Atlantic Ocean has become merely a big channel. The
same results can no longer be achieved by the same easy methods. Ugly
obstacles have jumped into view, and ugly obstacles are peculiarly
dangerous to a person who is sliding down hill. The man who is
clambering up hill is in a much better position to evade or overcome
them. Americans will possess a safer as well as a worthier vision of
their national Promise as soon as they give it a house on a hill-top
rather than in a valley.

The very genuine experience upon which American optimistic fatalism
rests, is equivalent, because of its limitations, to a dangerous
inexperience, and of late years an increasing number of Americans have
been drawing this inference. They have been coming to see themselves
more as others see them; and as an introduction to a consideration of
this more critical frame of mind, I am going to quote another
foreigner's view of American life,--the foreigner in this case being an
Englishman and writing in 1893.

"The American note," says Mr. James Muirhead in his "Land of Contrasts,"
"includes a sense of illimitable expansion and possibility, an almost
childlike confidence in human ability and fearlessness of both the
present and the future, a wider realization of human brotherhood than
has yet existed, a greater theoretical willingness to judge by the
individual than by the class, a breezy indifference to authority and a
positive predilection for innovation, a marked alertness of mind, and a
manifold variety of interest--above all, an inextinguishable hopefulness
and courage. It is easy to lay one's finger in America upon almost every
one of the great defects of civilization--even those defects which are
specially characteristic of the civilization of the Old World. The
United States cannot claim to be exempt from manifestations of economic
slavery, of grinding the faces of the poor, of exploitation of the weak,
of unfair distribution of wealth, of unjust monopoly, of unequal laws,
of industrial and commercial chicanery, of disgraceful ignorance, of
economic fallacies, of public corruption, of interested legislation, of
want of public spirit, of vulgar boasting and chauvinism, of snobbery,
of class prejudice, of respect of persons, and of a preference of the
material over the spiritual. In a word, America has not attained, or
nearly attained, perfection. But below and behind, and beyond all its
weakness and evils, there is the grand fact of a noble national theory
founded on reason and conscience." The reader will remark in the
foregoing quotation that Mr. Muirhead is equally emphatic in his
approval and in his disapproval. He generously recognizes almost as much
that is good about Americans and their ways as our most vivacious
patriotic orators would claim, while at the same time he has marshaled
an army of abuses and sins which sound like an echo of the pages of the
_London Saturday Review_. In the end he applies a friendly dash of
whitewash by congratulating us on the "grand fact of our noble national
theory," but to a discerning mind the consolation is not very consoling.
The trouble is that the sins with which America is charged by Mr.
Muirhead are flagrant violations of our noble national theory. So far as
his charges are true, they are a denial that the American political and
economic organization is accomplishing the results which its traditional
claims require. If, as Mr. Muirhead charges, Americans permit the
existence of economic slavery, if they grind the face of the poor, if
they exploit the weak and distribute wealth unjustly, if they allow
monopolies to prevail and laws to be unequal, if they are disgracefully
ignorant, politically corrupt, commercially unscrupulous, socially
snobbish, vulgarly boastful, and morally coarse,--if the substance of
the foregoing indictment is really true, why, the less that is said
about a noble national theory, the better. A man who is a sturdy sinner
all the week hardly improves his moral standing by attending church on
Sunday and professing a noble Christian theory of life. There must
surely be some better way of excusing our sins than by raising aloft a
noble theory of which these sins are a glaring violation.

I have quoted from Mr. Muirhead, not because his antithetic
characterization of American life is very illuminating, but because of
the precise terms of his charges against America. His indictment is
practically equivalent to the assertion that the American system is not,
or at least is no longer, achieving as much as has been claimed on its
behalf. A democratic system may permit undefiled the existence of many
sins and abuses, but it cannot permit the exploitation of the ordinary
man by means of unjust laws and institutions. Neither can this
indictment be dismissed without argument. When Mr. Muirhead's book was
written sixteen years ago, the majority of good Americans would
assuredly have read the charge with an incredulous smile; but in the
year 1909 they might behave differently. The sins of which Mr. Muirhead
accused Americans sixteen years ago are substantially the sins of which
to-day they are accusing themselves--or rather one another. A numerous
and powerful group of reformers has been collecting whose whole
political policy and action is based on the conviction that the "common
people" have not been getting the Square Deal to which they are entitled
under the American system; and these reformers are carrying with them a
constantly increasing body of public opinion. A considerable proportion
of the American people is beginning to exhibit economic and political,
as well as personal, discontent. A generation ago the implication was
that if a man remained poor and needy, his poverty was his own fault,
because the American system was giving all its citizens a fair chance.
Now, however, the discontented poor are beginning to charge their
poverty to an unjust political and economic organization, and reforming
agitators do not hesitate to support them in this contention. Manifestly
a threatened obstacle has been raised against the anticipated
realization of our national Promise. Unless the great majority of
Americans not only have, but believe they have, a fair chance, the
better American future will be dangerously compromised.

The conscious recognition of grave national abuses casts a deep shadow
across the traditional American patriotic vision. The sincere and candid
reformer can no longer consider the national Promise as destined to
automatic fulfillment. The reformers themselves are, no doubt, far from
believing that whatever peril there is cannot be successfully averted.
They make a point of being as patriotically prophetic as the most
"old-fashioned Democrat." They proclaim even more loudly their
conviction of an indubitable and a beneficent national future. But they
do not and cannot believe that this future will take care of itself. As
reformers they are bound to assert that the national body requires for
the time being a good deal of medical attendance, and many of them
anticipate that even after the doctors have discontinued their daily
visits the patient will still need the supervision of a sanitary
specialist. He must be persuaded to behave so that he will not easily
fall ill again, and so that his health will be permanently improved.
Consequently, just in so far as reformers are reformers they are obliged
to abandon the traditional American patriotic fatalism. The national
Promise has been transformed into a closer equivalent of a national
purpose, the fulfillment of which is a matter of conscious work.

The transformation of the old sense of a glorious national destiny into
the sense of a serious national purpose will inevitably tend to make the
popular realization of the Promise of American life both more explicit
and more serious. As long as Americans believed they were able to
fulfill a noble national Promise merely by virtue of maintaining intact
a set of political institutions and by the vigorous individual pursuit
of private ends, their allegiance to their national fulfillment remained
more a matter of words than of deeds; but now that they are being
aroused from their patriotic slumber, the effect is inevitably to
disentangle the national idea and to give it more dignity. The
redemption of the national Promise has become a cause for which the good
American must fight, and the cause for which a man fights is a cause
which he more than ever values. The American idea is no longer to be
propagated merely by multiplying the children of the West and by
granting ignorant aliens permission to vote. Like all sacred causes, it
must be propagated by the Word and by that right arm of the Word, which
is the Sword.

The more enlightened reformers are conscious of the additional dignity
and value which the popularity of reform has bestowed upon the American
idea, but they still fail to realize the deeper implications of their
own programme. In abandoning the older conception of an automatic
fulfillment of our national destiny, they have abandoned more of the
traditional American point of view than they are aware. The traditional
American optimistic fatalism was not of accidental origin, and it cannot
be abandoned without involving in its fall some other important
ingredients in the accepted American tradition. Not only was it
dependent on economic conditions which prevailed until comparatively
recent times, but it has been associated with certain erroneous but
highly cherished political theories. It has been wrought into the fabric
of our popular economic and political ideas to such an extent that its
overthrow necessitates a partial revision of some of the most important
articles in the traditional American creed.

The extent and the character of this revision may be inferred from a
brief consideration of the effect upon the substance of our national
Promise of an alteration in its proposed method of fulfillment. The
substance of our national Promise has consisted, as we have seen, of an
improving popular economic condition, guaranteed by democratic political
institutions, and resulting in moral and social amelioration. These
manifold benefits were to be obtained merely by liberating the
enlightened self-interest of the American people. The beneficent result
followed inevitably from the action of wholly selfish motives--provided,
of course, the democratic political system of equal rights was
maintained in its integrity. The fulfillment of the American Promise was
considered inevitable because it was based upon a combination of
self-interest and the natural goodness of human nature. On the other
hand, if the fulfillment of our national Promise can no longer be
considered inevitable, if it must be considered as equivalent to a
conscious national purpose instead of an inexorable national destiny,
the implication necessarily is that the trust reposed in individual
self-interest has been in some measure betrayed. No preestablished
harmony can then exist between the free and abundant satisfaction of
private needs and the accomplishment of a morally and socially desirable
result. The Promise of American life is to be fulfilled--not merely by a
maximum amount of economic freedom, but by a certain measure of
discipline; not merely by the abundant satisfaction of individual
desires, but by a large measure of individual subordination and
self-denial. And this necessity of subordinating the satisfaction of
individual desires to the fulfillment of a national purpose is attached
particularly to the absorbing occupation of the American people,--the
occupation, viz.: of accumulating wealth. The automatic fulfillment of
the American national Promise is to be abandoned, if at all, precisely
because the traditional American confidence in individual freedom has
resulted in a morally and socially undesirable distribution of wealth.

In making the concluding statement of the last paragraph I am venturing,
of course, upon very debatable ground. Neither can I attempt in this
immediate connection to offer any justification for the statement which
might or should be sufficient to satisfy a stubborn skeptic. I must be
content for the present with the bare assertion that the prevailing
abuses and sins, which have made reform necessary, are all of them
associated with the prodigious concentration of wealth, and of the power
exercised by wealth, in the hands of a few men. I am far from believing
that this concentration of economic power is wholly an undesirable
thing, and I am also far from believing that the men in whose hands this
power is concentrated deserve, on the whole, any exceptional moral
reprobation for the manner in which it has been used. In certain
respects they have served their country well, and in almost every
respect their moral or immoral standards are those of the great majority
of their fellow-countrymen. But it is none the less true that the
political corruption, the unwise economic organization, and the legal
support afforded to certain economic privileges are all under existing
conditions due to the malevolent social influence of individual and
incorporated American wealth; and it is equally true that these abuses,
and the excessive "money power" with which they are associated, have
originated in the peculiar freedom which the American tradition and
organization have granted to the individual. Up to a certain point that
freedom has been and still is beneficial. Beyond that point it is not
merely harmful; it is by way of being fatal. Efficient regulation there
must be; and it must be regulation which will strike, not at the
symptoms of the evil, but at its roots. The existing concentration of
wealth and financial power in the hands of a few irresponsible men is
the inevitable outcome of the chaotic individualism of our political and
economic organization, while at the same time it is inimical to
democracy, because it tends to erect political abuses and social
inequalities into a system. The inference which follows may be
disagreeable, but it is not to be escaped. In becoming responsible for
the subordination of the individual to the demand of a dominant and
constructive national purpose, the American state will in effect be
making itself responsible for a morally and socially desirable
distribution of wealth.

The consequences, then, of converting our American national destiny into
a national purpose are beginning to be revolutionary. When the Promise
of American life is conceived as a national ideal, whose fulfillment is
a matter of artful and laborious work, the effect thereof is
substantially to identify the national purpose with the social problem.
What the American people of the present and the future have really been
promised by our patriotic prophecies is an attempt to solve that
problem. They have been promised on American soil comfort, prosperity,
and the opportunity for self-improvement; and the lesson of the existing
crisis is that such a Promise can never be redeemed by an indiscriminate
individual scramble for wealth. The individual competition, even when it
starts under fair conditions and rules, results, not only, as it should,
in the triumph of the strongest, but in the attempt to perpetuate the
victory; and it is this attempt which must be recognized and forestalled
in the interest of the American national purpose. The way to realize a
purpose is, not to leave it to chance, but to keep it loyally in mind,
and adopt means proper to the importance and the difficulty of the task.
No voluntary association of individuals, resourceful and disinterested
though they be, is competent to assume the responsibility. The problem
belongs to the American national democracy, and its solution must be
attempted chiefly by means of official national action.

Neither can its attempted solution be escaped. When they are confronted
by the individual sacrifices which the fulfillment of their national
Promise demands, American political leaders will find many excuses for
ignoring the responsibility thereby implied; but the difficulty of such
an attempted evasion will consist in the reenforcement of the historical
tradition by a logical and a practical necessity. The American problem
is the social problem partly because the social problem is the
democratic problem. American political and social leaders will find that
in a democracy the problem cannot be evaded. The American people have no
irremediable political grievances. No good American denies the
desirability of popular sovereignty and of a government which should
somehow represent the popular will. While our national institutions may
not be a perfect embodiment of these doctrines, a decisive and a
resolute popular majority has the power to alter American institutions
and give them a more immediately representative character. Existing
political evils and abuses are serious enough; but inasmuch as they have
come into being, not against the will, but with the connivance of the
American people, the latter are responsible for their persistence. In
the long run, consequently, the ordinary American will have nothing
irremediable to complain about except economic and social inequalities.
In Europe such will not be the case. The several European peoples have,
and will continue to have, political grievances, because such grievances
are the inevitable consequence of their national history and their
international situation; and as long as these grievances remain, the
more difficult social problem will be subordinated to an agitation for
political emancipation. But the American people, having achieved
democratic institutions, have nothing to do but to turn them to good
account. In so far as the social problem is a real problem and the
economic grievance a real grievance, they are bound under the American
political system to come eventually to the surface and to demand express
and intelligent consideration. A democratic ideal makes the social
problem inevitable and its attempted solution indispensable.

I am fully aware, as already intimated, that the forgoing interpretation
of the Promise of American life will seem fantastic and obnoxious to the
great majority of Americans, and I am far from claiming that any reasons
as yet alleged afford a sufficient justification for such a radical
transformation of the traditional national policy and democratic creed.
All that can be claimed is that if a democratic ideal makes an express
consideration of the social problem inevitable, it is of the first
importance for Americans to realize this truth and to understand the
reasons for it. Furthermore, the assumption is worth making, in case the
traditional American system is breaking down, because a more highly
socialized democracy is the only practical substitute on the part of
convinced democrats for an excessively individualized democracy. Of
course, it will be claimed that the traditional system is not breaking
down, and again no absolute proof of the breakdown has been or can be
alleged. Nevertheless, the serious nature of contemporary American
political and economic symptoms at least pointedly suggests the
existence of some radical disease, and when one assumes such to be the
case, one cannot be accused of borrowing trouble, I shall, consequently,
start from such an assumption, and make an attempt to explain
contemporary American problems as in part the result of the practice of
an erroneous democratic theory. The attempt will necessarily involve a
brief review of our political and economic history, undertaken for the
purpose of tracing the traditional ideas of their origin and testing
them by their performances. There will follow a detailed examination of
current political and economic problems and conditions--considered in
relation both to the American democratic tradition and to the proposed
revision thereof. In view of the increasing ferment of American
political and economic thought, no apology is necessary for submitting
our traditional ideas and practices to an examination from an
untraditional point of view. I need scarcely add that the untraditional
point of view will contain little or no original matter. The only
novelty such an inquiry can claim is the novelty of applying ideas, long
familiar to foreign political thinkers, to the subject-matter of
American life. When applied to American life, this group of ideas
assumes a somewhat new complexion and significance; and the promise of
such a small amount of novelty will, I trust, tempt even a disapproving
reader to follow somewhat farther the course of the argument.




The purpose of the following review of American political ideas and
practices is, it must be premised, critical rather than narrative or
expository. I am not seeking to justify a political and economic theory
by an appeal to historical facts. I am seeking, on the contrary, to
place some kind of an estimate and interpretation upon American
political ideas and achievements; and this estimate and interpretation
is determined chiefly by a preconceived ideal. The acceptability of such
an estimate and interpretation will, of course, depend at bottom upon
the number of important facts which it explains and the number which it
either neglects or distorts. No doubt, certain omissions and distortions
are inevitable in an attempt of this kind; but I need scarcely add that
the greatest care has been taken to avoid them. In case the proposed
conception of the Promise of American life cannot be applied to our
political and economic history without essential perversion, it must
obviously fall to the ground; and as a matter of fact, the ideal itself
has been sensibly modified during the course of this attempt to give it
an historical application. In spite of all these modifications it
remains, however, an extremely controversial review. Our political and
economic past is, in a measure, challenged in order to justify our
political and social future. The values placed upon many political
ideas, tendencies, and achievements differ radically from the values
placed upon them either by their originators and partisans or in some
cases by the majority of American historians. The review, consequently,
will meet with a far larger portion of instinctive opposition and
distrust than it will of acquiescence. The whole traditional set of
values which it criticises is almost as much alive to-day as it was two
generations ago, and it forms a background to the political faith of
the great majority of Americans. Whatever favor a radical criticism can
obtain, it must win on its merits both as an adequate interpretation of
our political past and as an outlook towards the solution of our present
and future political and economic problems.

The material for this critical estimate must be sought, not so much in
the events of our national career, as in the ideas which have influenced
its course. Closely as these ideas are associated with the actual course
of American development, their meaning and their remoter tendencies have
not been wholly realized therein, because beyond a certain point no
attempt was made to think out these ideas candidly and consistently. For
one generation American statesmen were vigorous and fruitful political
thinkers; but the time soon came when Americans ceased to criticise
their own ideas, and since that time the meaning of many of our
fundamental national conceptions has been partly obscured, as well as
partly expressed, by the facts of our national growth. Consequently we
must go behind these facts and scrutinize, with more caution than is
usually considered necessary, the adequacy and consistency of the
underlying ideas. And I believe that the results of such a scrutiny will
be very illuminating. It will be found that from the start there has
been one group of principles at work which have made for American
national fulfillment, and another group of principles which has made for
American national distraction; and that these principles are as much
alive to-day as they were when Jefferson wrote the Kentucky resolutions
or when Jackson, at the dinner of the Jefferson Club, toasted the
preservation of the Union. But while these warring principles always
have been, and still are, alive, they have never, in my opinion, been
properly discriminated one from another; and until such a discrimination
is made, the lesson cannot be profitably applied to the solution of our
contemporary national problems.

All our histories recognize, of course, the existence from the very
beginning of our national career of two different and, in some respects,
antagonistic groups of political ideas,--the ideas which were
represented by Jefferson, and the ideas which were represented by
Hamilton. It is very generally understood, also, that neither the
Jeffersonian nor the Hamiltonian doctrine was entirely adequate, and
that in order to reach a correct understanding of the really formative
constituent in the complex of American national life, a combination must
be made of both Republicanism and Federalism. But while the necessity of
such a combination is fully realized, I do not believe that it has ever
been mixed in just the proper proportions. We are content to say with
Webster that the prosperity of American institutions depends upon the
unity and inseparability of individual and local liberties and a
national union. We are content to declare that the United States must
remain somehow a free and a united country, because there can be no
complete unity without liberty and no salutary liberty outside of a
Union. But the difficulties with this phrase, its implications and
consequences, we do not sufficiently consider. It is enough that we have
found an optimistic formula wherewith to unite the divergent aspects of
the Republican, and Federalist doctrines.

We must begin, consequently, with critical accounts of the ideas both of
Jefferson and of Hamilton; and we must seek to discover wherein each of
these sets of ideas was right, and wherein each was wrong; in what
proportions they were subsequently combined in order to form "our noble
national theory," and what were the advantages, the limitations, and the
effects of this combination. I shall not disguise the fact that, on the
whole, my own preferences are on the side of Hamilton rather than of
Jefferson. He was the sound thinker, the constructive statesman, the
candid and honorable, if erring, gentleman; while Jefferson was the
amiable enthusiast, who understood his fellow-countrymen better and
trusted them more than his rival, but who was incapable either of
uniting with his fine phrases a habit of candid and honorable private
dealing or of embodying those phrases in a set of efficient
institutions. But although Hamilton is much the finer man and much the
sounder thinker and statesman, there were certain limitations in his
ideas and sympathies the effects of which have been almost as baleful as
the effects of Jefferson's intellectual superficiality and insincerity.
He perverted the American national idea almost as much as Jefferson
perverted the American democratic idea, and the proper relation of these
two fundamental conceptions one to another cannot be completely
understood until this double perversion is corrected.

To make Hamilton and Jefferson exclusively responsible for this double
perversion is, however, by no means fair. The germs of it are to be
found in the political ideas and prejudices with which the American
people emerged from their successful Revolutionary War. At that time,
indeed, the opposition between the Republican and the Federalist
doctrines had not become definite and acute; and it is fortunate that
such was the case, because if the opponents of an efficient Federal
constitution had been organized and had been possessed of the full
courage and consciousness of their convictions, that instrument would
never have been accepted, or it would have been accepted only in a much
more mutilated and enfeebled condition. Nevertheless, the different
political points of view which afterwards developed into Hamiltonian
Federalism and Jeffersonian Republicanism were latent in the interests
and opinions of the friends and of the opponents of an efficient Federal
government; and these interests and opinions were the natural product of
contemporary American economic and political conditions.

Both Federalism and anti-Federalism were the mixed issue of an interest
and a theory. The interest which lay behind Federalism was that of
well-to-do citizens in a stable political and social order, and this
interest aroused them to favor and to seek some form of political
organization which was capable of protecting their property and
promoting its interest. They were the friends of liberty because they
were in a position to benefit largely by the possession of liberty; and
they wanted a strong central government because only by such means could
their liberties, which consisted fundamentally in the ability to enjoy
and increase their property, be guaranteed. Their interests were
threatened by the disorganized state governments in two different but
connected respects. These governments did not seem able to secure either
internal order or external peace. In their domestic policy the states
threatened to become the prey of a factious radical democracy, and their
relations one to another were by way of being constantly embroiled.
Unless something could be done, it looked as if they would drift in a
condition either of internecine warfare without profit or, at best, of
peace without security. A centralized and efficient government would do
away with both of these threats. It would prevent or curb all but the
most serious sectional disputes, while at the same time it would provide
a much stronger guarantee for internal political order and social
stability. An equally strong interest lay at the roots of
anti-Federalism and it had its theory, though this theory was less
mature and definite. Behind the opposition to a centralized government
were the interests and the prejudices of the mass of the American
people,--the people who were, comparatively speaking, lacking in money,
in education, and in experience. The Revolutionary War, while not
exclusively the work of the popular element in the community, had
undoubtedly increased considerably its power and influence. A large
proportion of the well-to-do colonial Americans had been active or
passive Tories, and had either been ruined or politically disqualified
by the Revolution. Their successful opponents reorganized the state
governments in a radical democratic spirit. The power of the state was
usually concentrated in the hands of a single assembly, to whom both the
executive and the courts were subservient; and this method of
organization was undoubtedly designed to give immediate and complete
effect to the will of a popular majority. The temper of the local
democracies, which, for the most part, controlled the state governments,
was insubordinate, factious, and extremely independent. They disliked
the idea of a centralized Federal government because a supreme power
would be thereby constituted which could interfere with the freedom of
local public opinion and thwart its will. No less than the Federalists,
they believed in freedom; but the kind of freedom they wanted, was
freedom from anything but local interference. The ordinary American
democrat felt that the power of _his_ personality and _his_ point of
view would be diminished by the efficient centralization of political
authority. He had no definite intention of using the democratic state
governments for anti-social or revolutionary purposes, but he was
self-willed and unruly in temper; and his savage treatment of the Tories
during and after the Revolution had given him a taste of the sweets of
confiscation. The spirit of his democracy was self-reliant,
undisciplined, suspicious of authority, equalitarian, and

With all their differences, however, the Federalists and their opponents
had certain common opinions and interests, and it was these common
opinions and interests which prevented the split from becoming
irremediable. The men of both parties were individualist in spirit, and
they were chiefly interested in the great American task of improving
their own condition in this world. They both wanted a government which
would secure them freedom of action for this purpose. The difference
between them was really less a difference of purpose than of the means
whereby a purpose should be accomplished. The Federalists, representing
as they did chiefly the people of wealth and education, demanded a
government adequate to protect existing propertied rights; but they were
not seeking any exceptional privileges--except those traditionally
associated with the ownership of private property. The anti-Federalists,
on the other hand, having less to protect and more to acquire, insisted
rather upon being let alone than in being protected. They expressed
themselves sometimes in such an extremely insubordinate manner as almost
to threaten social disorder, but were very far from being fundamentally
anti-social in interest or opinion. They were all by way of being
property-owners, and they all expected to benefit by freedom from
interference in the acquisition of wealth. It was this community of
interest and point of view which prepared the way, not only for the
adoption of the Constitution, but for the loyalty it subsequently
inspired in the average American.

It remains none the less true, however, that the division of interest
and the controversy thereby provoked was sharp and brought about certain
very unfortunate consequences. Inasmuch as the anti-Federalists were
unruly democrats and were suspicious of any efficient political
authority, the Federalists came, justly or unjustly, to identify both
anti-Federalism and democracy with political disorder and social
instability. They came, that is, to have much the same opinion of
radical democracy as an English peer might have had at the time of the
French Revolution; and this prejudice, which was unjust but not
unnatural, was very influential in determining the character of the
Federal Constitution. That instrument was framed, not as the expression
of a democratic creed, but partly as a legal fortress against the
possible errors and failings of democracy. The federalist point of view
resembled that of the later constitutional liberals in France. The
political ideal and benefit which they prized most highly was that of
liberty, and the Constitution was framed chiefly for the purpose of
securing liberty from any possible dangers. Popular liberty must be
protected against possible administrative or executive tyranny by free
representative institutions. Individual liberty must be protected
against the action of an unjust majority by the strongest possible legal
guarantees. And above all the general liberties of the community must
not be endangered by any inefficiency of the government as a whole. The
only method whereby these complicated and, in a measure, conflicting
ends could be attained was by a system of checks and balances, which
would make the executive, legislative, and judicial departments of the
government independent of one another, while at the same time endowing
each department with all the essentials of efficient action within its
own sphere. But such a method of political organization was calculated
to thwart the popular will, just in so far as that will did not conform
to what the Federalists believed to be the essentials of a stable
political and social order. It was antagonistic to democracy as that
word was then, and is still to a large extent, understood.

The extent of this antagonism to democracy, if not in intention at least
in effect, is frequently over-rated. The antagonism depends upon the
identification of democracy with a political organization for expressing
immediately and completely the will of the majority--whatever that will
may be; and such a conception of democracy contains only part of the
truth. Nevertheless the founders of the Constitution did succeed in
giving some effect to their distrust of the democratic principle, no
matter how conservatively defined; and this was at once a grave error on
their part and a grave misfortune for the American state. Founded as the
national government is, partly on a distrust of the American democracy,
it has always tended to make the democracy somewhat suspicious of the
national government. This mutual suspicion, while it has been limited in
scope and diminished by the action of time, constitutes a manifest
impediment to the efficient action of the American political system. The
great lesson of American political experience, as we shall see, is
rather that of interdependence than of incompatibility between an
efficient national organization and a group of radical democratic
institutions and ideals; and the meaning of this lesson has been
obscured, because the Federal organization has not been constituted in a
sufficiently democratic spirit, and because, consequently, it has tended
to provoke distrust on the part of good democrats. At every stage in the
history of American political ideas and practice we shall meet with the
unfortunate effects of this partial antagonism.

The error of the Federalists can, however, be excused by many
extenuating circumstances. Democracy as an ideal was misunderstood in
1786, and it was possessed of little or no standing in theory or
tradition. Moreover, the radical American democrats were doing much to
deserve the misgivings of the Federalists. Their ideas were narrow,
impracticable, and hazardous; and they were opposed to the essential
political need of the time--viz. the constitution of an efficient
Federal government. The Federalists may have misinterpreted and
perverted the proper purpose of American national organization, but they
could have avoided such misinterpretation only by an extraordinary
display of political insight and a heroic superiority to natural
prejudice. Their error sinks into insignificance compared with the
enormous service which they rendered to the American people and the
American cause. Without their help there might not have been any
American nation at all, or it might have been born under a far darker
cloud of political suspicion and animosity. The instrument which they
created, with all its faults, proved capable of becoming both the organ
of an efficient national government and the fundamental law of a
potentially democratic state. It has proved capable of flexible
development both in function and in purpose, and it has been developed
in both these directions without any sacrifice of integrity.

Its success has been due to the fact that its makers, with all their
apprehensions about democracy, were possessed of a wise and positive
political faith. They believed in liberty. They believed that the
essential condition of fruitful liberty was an efficient central
government. They knew that no government could be efficient unless its
powers equaled its responsibilities. They were willing to trust to such
a government the security and the welfare of the American people. The
Constitution has proved capable of development chiefly as the instrument
of these positive political ideas. Thanks to the theory of implied
powers, to the liberal construction of the Supreme Court during the
first forty years of its existence, and to the results of the Civil War
the Federal government has, on the whole, become more rather than less
efficient as the national political organ of the American people. Almost
from the start American life has grown more and more national in
substance, in such wise that a rigid constitution which could not have
been developed in a national direction would have been an increasing
source of irritation and protest. But this reenforcement of the
substance of American national life has, until recently, found an
adequate expression in the increasing scope and efficiency of the
Federal government. The Federalists had the insight to anticipate the
kind of government which their country needed; and this was a great and
a rare achievement--all the more so because they were obliged in a
measure to impose it on their fellow-countrymen.

There is, however, another face to the shield. The Constitution was the
expression not only of a political faith, but also of political fears.
It was wrought both as the organ of the national interest and as the
bulwark of certain individual and local rights. The Federalists sought
to surround private property, freedom of contract, and personal liberty
with an impregnable legal fortress; and they were forced by their
opponents to amend the original draft of the Constitution in order to
include a still more stringent bill of individual and state rights. Now
I am far from pretending that these legal restrictions have not had
their value in American national history, and were not the expression of
an essential element in the composition and the ideal of the American
nation. The security of private property and personal liberty, and a
proper distribution of activity between the local and the central
governments, demanded at that time, and within limits still demand,
adequate legal guarantees. It remains none the less true, however, that
every popular government should in the end, and after a necessarily
prolonged deliberation, possess the power of taking any action, which,
in the opinion of a decisive majority of the people, is demanded by the
public welfare. Such is not the case with the government organized
under the Federal Constitution. In respect to certain fundamental
provisions, which necessarily receive the most rigid interpretation on
the part of the courts, it is practically unmodifiable. A very small
percentage of the American people can in this respect permanently thwart
the will of an enormous majority, and there can be no justification for
such a condition on any possible theory of popular Sovereignty. This
defect has not hitherto had very many practical inconveniences, but it
is an absolute violation of the theory and the spirit of American
democratic institutions. The time may come when the fulfillment of a
justifiable democratic purpose may demand the limitation of certain
rights, to which the Constitution affords such absolute guarantees; and
in that case the American democracy might be forced to seek by
revolutionary means the accomplishment of a result which should be
attainable under the law.

It was, none the less, a great good thing that the Union under the new
Constitution triumphed. Americans have more reason to be proud of its
triumph than of any other event in their national history. The formation
of an effective nation out of the thirteen original colonies was a
political achievement for which there was no historical precedent. Up to
that time large countries had been brought, if not held, together by
military force or by a long process of gradually closer historical
association. Small and partly independent communities had combined one
with another only on compulsion. The necessities of joint defense might
occasionally drive them into temporary union, but they would not stay
united. They preferred a precarious and tumultuous independence to a
combination with neighboring communities, which brought security at the
price of partial subordination and loyal cooeperation. Even the provinces
which composed the United Netherlands never submitted to an effective
political union during the active and vital period of their history. The
small American states had apparently quite as many reasons for
separation as the small Grecian and Italian states. The military
necessities of the Revolution had welded them only into a loose and
feeble confederation, and a successful revolution does not constitute a
very good precedent for political subordination. The colonies were
divided from one another by difficulties of communication, by
variations in economic conditions and social customs, by divergent
interests, and above all by a rampant provincial and separatist spirit.
On the other hand, they were united by a common language, by a common
political and legal tradition, and by the fact that none of them had
ever been really independent sovereign states. Nobody dared or cared to
object to union in the abstract; nobody advocated the alternative of
complete separation; it was only a strong efficient union which aroused
the opposition of the Clintons and the Patrick Henrys. Nevertheless, the
conditions making for separation have the appearance of being more
insistent and powerful than the conditions making for an effective
union. Disunion was so easy. Union was so difficult. If the states had
only kept on drifting a little longer, they would, at least for a while,
inevitably have drifted apart. They were saved from such a fate chiefly
by the insight and energy of a few unionist leaders--of whom Washington
and Hamilton were the most important.

Perhaps American conditions were such that eventually some kind of a
national government was sure to come; but the important point is that
when it came, it came as the result of forethought and will rather than
of compulsion. "It seems to have been reserved," says Hamilton in the
very first number of the _Federalist_, "to the people of this country by
their conduct and example, to decide the important question whether
societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good
government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever
destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and
force." Americans deliberately selected the better part. It is true that
the evil effects of a loose union were only too apparent, and that
public safety, order, and private property were obviously endangered by
the feeble machinery of Federal government. Nevertheless, conditions had
not become intolerable. The terrible cost of disunion in money, blood,
humiliation, and hatred had not actually been paid. It might well have
seemed cheaper to most Americans to drift on a little longer than to
make the sacrifices and to undertake the labor demanded by the formation
of an effective union. There were plenty of arguments by which a policy
of letting things alone could be plausibly defended, and the precedents
were all in its favor. Other people had acquired such political
experience as they were capable of assimilating, first by drifting into
some intolerable excess or some distressing error, and then by
undergoing some violent process of purgation or reform. But it is the
distinction of our own country that at the critical moment of its
history, the policy of drift was stopped before a virulent disease had
necessitated a violent and exhausting remedy.

This result was achieved chiefly by virtue of capable, energetic, and
patriotic leadership. It is stated that if the Constitution had been
subjected to a popular vote as soon as the labors of the Convention
terminated, it would probably have been rejected in almost every state
in the Union. That it was finally adopted, particularly by certain
important states, was distinctly due to the conversion of public
opinion, by means of powerful and convincing argument. The American
people steered the proper course because their leaders convinced them of
the proper course to steer; and the behavior of the many who followed
behind is as exemplary as is that of the few who pointed the way. A
better example could not be asked of the successful operation of the
democratic institutions, and it would be as difficult to find its
parallel in the history of our own as in the history of European



Fortunately for the American nation the unionists, who wrought the
Constitution, were substantially the same body of men as the Federalist
party who organized under its provisions an efficient national
government. The work of Washington, Hamilton, and their associates
during the first two administrations was characterized by the same
admirable qualities as the work of the makers of the Constitution, and
it is of similar importance. A vigorous, positive, constructive national
policy was outlined and carried substantially into effect,--a policy
that implied a faith in the powers of an efficient government to advance
the national interest, and which justified the faith by actually meeting
the critical problems of the time with a series of wise legislative
measures. Hamilton's part in this constructive legislation was, of
course, more important than it had been in the framing of the
Constitution. During Washington's two administrations the United States
was governed practically by his ideas, if not by his will; and the sound
and unsound parts of his political creed can consequently be more
definitely disentangled than they can be during the years when the
Constitution was being wrought. The Constitution was in many respects a
compromise, whereas the ensuing constructive legislation was a tolerably
pure example of Hamiltonian Federalism. It will be instructive,
consequently, to examine the trend of this Hamiltonian policy, and seek
to discover wherein it started the country on the right path, and
wherein it sought to commit the national government to a more dubious
line of action.

Hamilton's great object as Secretary of the Treasury was that of making
the organization of the national finances serve the cause of a
constructive national policy. He wished to strengthen the Federal
government by a striking exhibition of its serviceability, and by
creating both a strong sentiment and an influential interest in its
favor. To this end he committed the nation to a policy of scrupulous
financial honesty, which has helped to make it ever since the mainstay
of sound American finance. He secured the consent of Congress to the
recognition at their face value of the debts incurred during the war
both by the Confederacy and by the individual states. He created in the
National Bank an efficient fiscal agent for the Treasury Department and
a means whereby it could give stability to the banking system of the
country. Finally he sought by means of his proposed fiscal and
commercial policy to make the central government the effective promoter
of a wholesome and many-sided national development. He detected the
danger to political stability and self-control which would result from
the continued growth of the United States as a merely agricultural and
trading community, and he saw that it was necessary to cultivate
manufacturing industries and technical knowledge and training, because
diversified activity and a well-rounded social and economic life brings
with it national balance and security.

Underlying the several aspects of Hamilton's policy can be discerned a
definite theory of governmental functions. The central government is to
be used, not merely to maintain the Constitution, but to promote the
national interest and to consolidate the national organization. Hamilton
saw clearly that the American Union was far from being achieved when
the Constitution was accepted by the states and the machinery of the
Federal government set in motion. A good start had been made, but the
way in which to keep what had been gained was to seek for more. Unionism
must be converted into a positive policy which labored to strengthen the
national interest and organization, discredit possible or actual
disunionist ideas and forces, and increase the national spirit. All this
implied an active interference with the natural course of American
economic and political business and its regulation and guidance in the
national direction. It implied a conscious and indefatigable attempt on
the part of the national leaders to promote the national welfare. It
implied the predominance in American political life of the men who had
the energy and the insight to discriminate between those ideas and
tendencies which promoted the national welfare, and those ideas and
tendencies whereby it was imperiled. It implied, in fine, the
perpetuation of the same kind of leadership which had guided the country
safely through the dangers of the critical period, and the perpetuation
of the purposes which inspired that leadership.

So far I, at least, have no fault to find with implications of
Hamilton's Federalism, but unfortunately his policy was in certain other
respects tainted with a more doubtful tendency. On the persistent
vitality of Hamilton's national principle depends the safety of the
American republic and the fertility of the American idea, but he did not
seek a sufficiently broad, popular basis for the realization of those
ideas. He was betrayed by his fears and by his lack of faith. Believing
as he did, and far more than he had any right to believe, that he was
still fighting for the cause of social stability and political order
against the seven devils of anarchy and dissolution, he thought it
necessary to bestow upon the central government the support of a strong
special interest. During the Constitutional Convention he had failed to
secure the adoption of certain institutions which in his opinion would
have established as the guardian of the Constitution an aristocracy of
ability; and he now insisted all the more upon the plan of attaching to
the Federal government the support of well-to-do people. As we have
seen, the Constitution had been framed and its adoption secured chiefly
by citizens of education and means; and the way had been prepared,
consequently, for the attempt of Hamilton to rally this class as a class
more than ever to the support of the Federal government. They were the
people who had most to lose by political instability or inefficiency,
and they must be brought to lend their influence to the perpetuation of
a centralized political authority. Hence he believed a considerable
national debt to be a good thing for the Federal national interest, and
he insisted strenuously upon the assumption by the Federal government of
the state war-debts. He conceived the Constitution and the Union as a
valley of peace and plenty which had to be fortified against the
marauders by the heavy ramparts of borrowed money and the big guns of a
propertied interest.

In so doing Hamilton believed that he was (to vary the metaphor) loading
the ship of state with a necessary ballast, whereas in truth he was
disturbing its balance and preventing it from sailing free. He succeeded
in imbuing both men of property and the mass of the "plain people" with
the idea that the well-to-do were the peculiar beneficiaries of the
American Federal organization, the result being that the rising
democracy came more than ever to distrust the national government.
Instead of seeking to base the perpetuation of the Union upon the
interested motives of a minority of well-to-do citizens, he would have
been far wiser to have frankly intrusted its welfare to the good-will of
the whole people. But unfortunately he was prevented from so doing by
the limitation both of his sympathies and ideas. He was possessed by the
English conception of a national state, based on the domination of
special privileged orders and interests; and he failed to understand
that the permanent support of the American national organization could
not be found in anything less than the whole American democracy. The
American Union was a novel and a promising political creation, not
because it was a democracy, for there had been plenty of previous
democracies, and not because it was a nation, for there had been plenty
of previous nations, but precisely and entirely because it was a
democratic nation,--a nation committed by its institutions and
aspirations to realize the democratic idea.

Much, consequently, as we may value Hamilton's work and for the most
part his ideas, it must be admitted that the popular disfavor with
which he came to be regarded had its measure of justice. This disfavor
was indeed partly the result of his resolute adherence to a wise but an
unpopular foreign policy; and the way in which this policy was carried
through by Washington, Hamilton, and their followers, in spite of the
general dislike which it inspired, deserves the warmest praise. But
Hamilton's unpopularity was fundamentally due to deeper causes. He and
his fellow-Federalists did not understand their fellow-countrymen and
sympathize with their purposes, and naturally they were repaid with
misunderstanding and suspicion. He ceased, after Washington's
retirement, to be a national leader, and became the leader of a faction;
and before his death his party ceased to be the national party, and came
to represent only a section and a class. In this way it irretrievably
lost public support, and not even the miserable failure of Jefferson's
policy of embargo could persuade the American people to restore the
Federalists to power. As a party organization they disappeared entirely
after the second English war, and unfortunately much that was good in
Hamilton's political point of view disappeared with the bad. But by its
failure one good result was finally established. For better or worse the
United States had become a democracy as well as a nation, and its
national task was not that of escaping the dangers of democracy, but of
realizing its responsibilities and opportunities.

It did not take Hamilton's opponents long to discover that his ideas and
plans were in some respects inimical to democracy; and the consequence
was that Hamilton was soon confronted by one of the most implacable and
unscrupulous oppositions which ever abused a faithful and useful public
servant. This opposition was led by Jefferson, and while it most
unfortunately lacked Hamilton's statesmanship and sound constructive
ideas, it possessed the one saving quality which Hamilton himself
lacked: Jefferson was filled with a sincere, indiscriminate, and
unlimited faith in the American people. He was according to his own
lights a radical and unqualified democrat, and as a democrat he fought
most bitterly what he considered to be the aristocratic or even
monarchic tendency of Hamilton's policy. Much of the denunciation which
he and his followers lavished upon Hamilton was unjust, and much of the
fight which they put up against his measures was contrary to the public
welfare. They absolutely failed to give him credit for the patriotism of
his intentions or for the merit of his achievements, and their
unscrupulous and unfair tactics established a baleful tradition in
American party warfare. But Jefferson was wholly right in believing that
his country was nothing, if not a democracy, and that any tendency to
impair the integrity of the democratic idea could be productive only of

Unfortunately Jefferson's conception of democracy was meager, narrow,
and self-contradictory; and just because his ideas prevailed, while
Hamilton toward the end of his life lost his influence, the consequences
of Jefferson's imperfect conception of democracy have been much more
serious than the consequences of Hamilton's inadequate conception of
American nationality. In Jefferson's mind democracy was tantamount to
extreme individualism. He conceived a democratic society to be composed
of a collection of individuals, fundamentally alike in their abilities
and deserts; and in organizing such a society, politically, the prime
object was to provide for the greatest satisfaction of its individual
members. The good things of life which had formerly been monopolized by
the privileged few, were now to be distributed among all the people. It
was unnecessary, moreover, to make any very artful arrangements, in
order to effect an equitable distribution. Such distribution would take
care of itself, provided nobody enjoyed any special privileges and
everybody had equal opportunities. Once these conditions were secured,
the motto of a democratic government should simply be "Hands Off." There
should be as little government as possible, because persistent
governmental interference implied distrust in popular efficiency and
good-will; and what government there was, should be so far as possible
confided to local authorities. The vitality of a democracy resided in
its extremities, and it would be diminished rather than increased by
specialized or centralized guidance. Its individual members needed
merely to be protected against privileges and to be let alone,
whereafter the native goodness of human nature would accomplish the
perfect consummation.

Thus Jefferson sought an essentially equalitarian and even socialistic
result by means of an essentially individualistic machinery. His theory
implied a complete harmony both in logic and in effect between the idea
of liberty and the idea of equality; and just in so far as there is any
antagonism between those ideas, his whole political system becomes
unsound and impracticable. Neither is there any doubt as to which of
these ideas Jefferson and his followers really attached the more
importance. Their mouths have always been full of the praise of liberty;
and unquestionably they have really believed it to be the corner-stone
of their political and social structure. None the less, however, is it
true that in so far as any antagonism has developed in American life
between liberty and equality, the Jeffersonian Democrats have been found
on the side of equality. Representing as they did the democratic
principle, it is perfectly natural and desirable that they should fight
the battle of equality in a democratic state; and their error has been,
not their devotion to equality, but their inability to discern wherein
any antagonism existed between liberty and equality, and the extent to
which they were sacrificing a desirable liberty to an undesirable

On this, as on so many other points, Hamilton's political philosophy was
much more clearly thought out than that of Jefferson. He has been
accused by his opponents of being the enemy of liberty; whereas in point
of fact, he wished, like the Englishman he was, to protect and encourage
liberty, just as far as such encouragement was compatible with good
order, because he realized that genuine liberty would inevitably issue
in fruitful social and economic inequalities. But he also realized that
genuine liberty was not merely a matter of a constitutional declaration
of rights. It could be protected only by an energetic and clear-sighted
central government, and it could be fertilized only by the efficient
national organization of American activities. For national organization
demands in relation to individuals a certain amount of selection, and a
certain classification of these individuals according to their abilities
and deserts. It is just this kind or effect of liberty which Jefferson
and his followers have always disliked and discouraged. They have been
loud in their praise of legally constituted rights; but they have shown
an instinctive and an implacable distrust of intellectual and moral
independence, and have always sought to suppress it in favor of
intellectual and moral conformity. They have, that is, stood for the
sacrifice of liberty--in so far as liberty meant positive intellectual
and moral achievement--to a certain kind of equality.

I do not mean to imply by the preceding statement that either Jefferson
or his followers were the conscious enemies of moral and intellectual
achievement. On the contrary, they appeared to themselves in their
amiable credulity to be the friends and guardians of everything
admirable in human life; but their good intentions did not prevent them
from actively or passively opposing positive intellectual and moral
achievement, directed either towards social or individual ends. The
effect of their whole state of mind was negative and fatalistic. They
approved in general of everything approvable; but the things of which
they actively approved were the things which everybody in general was
doing. Their point of view implied that society and individuals could be
made better without actually planning the improvement or building up an
organization for the purpose; and this assertion brings me to the
deepest-lying difference between Hamilton and Jefferson. Jefferson's
policy was at bottom the old fatal policy of drift, whose distorted body
was concealed by fair-seeming clothes, and whose ugly face was covered
by a mask of good intentions. Hamilton's policy was one of energetic and
intelligent assertion of the national good. He knew that the only method
whereby the good could prevail either in individual or social life was
by persistently willing that it should prevail and by the adoption of
intelligent means to that end. His vision of the national good was
limited; but he was absolutely right about the way in which it was to be

Hamilton was not afraid to exhibit in his own life moral and
intellectual independence. He was not afraid to incur unpopularity for
pursuing what he believed to be a wise public policy, and the general
disapprobation under which he suffered during the last years of his
life, while it was chiefly due, as we have seen, to his distrust of the
American democracy, was also partly due to his high conception of the
duties of leadership. Jefferson, on the other hand, afforded an equally
impressive example of the statesman who assiduously and intentionally
courted popular favor. It was, of course, easy for him to court popular
favor, because he understood the American people extremely well and
really sympathized with them; but he never used the influence which he
thereby obtained for the realization of any positive or formative
purpose, which might be unpopular. His policy, while in office, was one
of fine phrases and temporary expedients, some of which necessarily
incurred odium, but none of which were pursued by him or his followers
with any persistence. Whatever the people demanded, their leaders should
perform, including, if necessary, a declaration of war against England.
It was to be a government of and by the people, not a government for the
people by popular but responsible leaders; and the leaders to whom the
people delegated their authority had in theory no right to pursue an
unpopular policy. The people were to guide their leaders, not their
leaders the people; and any intellectual or moral independence and
initiative on the part of the leaders in a democracy was to be condemned
as undemocratic. The representatives of a Sovereign people were in the
same position as the courtiers of an absolute monarch. It was their
business to flatter and obey.



It is not surprising, consequently, that Jefferson, who had been a lion
in opposition, was transformed by the assumption of power into a lamb.
Inasmuch as he had been denouncing every act of the Federalists since
the consummation of the Union as dangerous to American liberties or as
inimical to the public welfare, it was to be anticipated, when he and
his party assumed office, that they would seek both to tear down the
Federalist structure and rear in its place a temple of the true
Republican faith. Not only did nothing of the kind follow, but nothing
of the kind was even attempted. Considering the fulminations of the
Republicans during the last ten years of Federalist domination,
Jefferson's first Inaugural is a bewildering document. The recent past,
which had but lately been so full of dangers, was ignored; and the
future, the dangers of which were much more real, was not for the moment
considered. Jefferson was sworn in with his head encircled by a halo of
beautiful phrases; and he and his followers were so well satisfied with
this beatific vision that they entirely overlooked the desirability of
redeeming their own past or of providing for their country's future.
Sufficient unto the day was the popularity thereof. The Federalists
themselves must be conciliated, and the national organization achieved
by them is by implication accepted. The Federalist structure, so
recently the prison of the free American spirit, becomes itself a large
part of the temple of democracy. The Union is no longer inimical to
liberty. For the first time we begin to hear from good Republican
mouths, some sacred words about the necessary connection of liberty and
union. Jefferson celebrated his triumph by adopting the work, if not the
creed, of his adversaries.

The adoption by Jefferson and the Republicans of the political structure
of their opponents is of an importance hardly inferior to that of the
adoption of the Constitution by the states. It was the first practical
indication that democracy and Federalism were not as radically
antagonistic as their extreme partisans had believed; and it was also
the first indication that the interests which were concealed behind the
phrases of the two parties were not irreconcilable. When the democracy
rallied to the national organization, the American state began to be a
democratic nation. The alliance was as yet both fragile and superficial.
It was founded on a sacrifice by the two parties, not merely of certain
errors and misconceptions, but also of certain convictions, which had
been considered essential. The Republicans tacitly admitted the
substantial falsity of their attacks upon the Federal organization. The
many Federalists who joined their opponents abandoned without scruple
the whole spirit and purpose of the Hamiltonian national policy. But at
any rate the reconciliation was accomplished. The newly founded American
state was for the time being saved from the danger of being torn asunder
by two rival factions, each representing irreconcilable ideas and
interests. The Union, which had been celebrated in 1789, was consummated
in 1801. Its fertility was still to be proved.

When Jefferson and the Republicans rallied to the Union and to the
existing Federalist organization, the fabric of traditional American
democracy was almost completely woven. Thereafter the American people
had only to wear it and keep it in repair. The policy announced in
Jefferson's first Inaugural was in all important respects merely a
policy of conservatism. The American people were possessed of a set of
political institutions, which deprived them of any legitimate grievances
and supplied them with every reasonable opportunity; and their political
duty was confined to the administration of these institutions in a
faithful spirit and their preservation from harm. The future contained
only one serious danger. Such liberties were always open to attack, and
there would always be designing men whose interest it was to attack
them. The great political responsibility of the American democracy was
to guard itself against such assaults; and should they succeed in this
task they need have no further concern about their future. Their
political salvation was secure. They had placed it, as it were, in a
good sound bank. It would be sure to draw interest provided the bank
were conservatively managed--that is, provided it were managed by loyal
Republicans. There was no room or need for any increase in the fund,
because it already satisfied every reasonable purpose. But it must not
be diminished; and it must not be exposed to any risk of diminution by
hazardous speculative investments.

During the next fifty years, the American democracy accepted almost
literally this Jeffersonian tradition. Until the question of slavery
became acute, they ceased to think seriously about political problems.
The lawyers were preoccupied with certain important questions of
constitutional interpretation, which had their political implications;
but the purpose of these expositions of our fundamental law was the
affirmation, the consolidation, and towards the end, the partial
restriction of the existing Federalist organization. In this as in other
respects the Americans of the second and third generations were merely
preserving what their fathers had wrought. Their political institutions
were good, in so far as they were not disturbed. They might become bad,
only in case they were perverted. The way to guard against such
perversion was, of course, to secure the election of righteous
democrats. From the traditional American point of view, it was far more
important to get the safe candidates elected than it was to use the
power so obtained for any useful political achievement. In the hands of
unsafe men,--that is, one's political opponents,--the government might
be perverted to dangerous uses, whereas in the hands of safe men, it
could at best merely be preserved in safety. Misgovernment was a
greater danger than good government was a benefit, because good
government, particularly on the part of Federal officials, consisted,
apart from routine business, in letting things alone. Thus the furious
interest, which the good American took in getting himself and his
associates elected, could be justified by reasons founded on the
essential nature of the traditional political system.

The good American democrat had, of course, another political duty
besides that of securing the election of himself and his friends. His
political system was designed, not merely to deprive him of grievances,
but to offer him superlative opportunities. In taking the utmost
advantage of those opportunities, he was not only fulfilling his duty to
himself, but he was helping to realize the substantial purpose of
democracy. Just as it was the function of the national organization to
keep itself undefiled and not to interfere, so it was his personal
function to make hay while the sun was shining. The triumph of Jefferson
and the defeat of Hamilton enabled the natural individualism of the
American people free play. The democratic political system was
considered tantamount in practice to a species of vigorous, licensed,
and purified selfishness. The responsibilities of the government were
negative; those of the individual were positive. And it is no wonder
that in the course of time his positive responsibilities began to look
larger and larger. This licensed selfishness became more domineering in
proportion as it became more successful. If a political question arose,
which in any way interfered with his opportunities, the good American
began to believe that his democratic political machine was out of gear.
Did Abolitionism create a condition of political unrest, and interfere
with good business, then Abolitionists were wicked men, who were
tampering with the ark of the Constitution; and in much the same way the
modern reformer, who proposes policies looking toward a restriction in
the activity of corporations and stands in the way of the immediate
transaction of the largest possible volume of business, is denounced as
un-American. These were merely crude ways of expressing the spirit of
traditional American democracy,--which was that of a rampant
individualism, checked only by a system of legally constituted rights.
The test of American national success was the comfort and prosperity of
the individual; and the means to that end,--a system of unrestricted
individual aggrandizement and collective irresponsibility.

The alliance between Federalism and democracy on which this traditional
system was based, was excellent in many of its effects; but
unfortunately it implied on the part of both the allies a sacrifice of
political sincerity and conviction. And this sacrifice was more
demoralizing to the Republicans than to the Federalists, because they
were the victorious party. A central government, constructed on the
basis of their democratic creed, would have been a government whose
powers were smaller, more rigid, and more inefficiently distributed than
those granted under our Federal Constitution--as may be seen from the
various state constitutions subsequently written under Jeffersonian
influence. When they obtained power either they should have been
faithful to their convictions and tried to modify the Federal machinery
in accordance therewith, or they should have modified their ideas in
order to make them square with their behavior. But instead of seriously
and candidly considering the meaning of their own actions, they opened
their mouths wide enough to swallow their own past and then deliberately
shut their eyes. They accepted the national organization as a fact and
as a condition of national safety; but they rejected it as a lesson in
political wisdom, and as an implicit principle of political action. By
so doing they began that career of intellectual lethargy,
superficiality, and insincerity which ever since has been characteristic
of official American political thought.

This lack of intellectual integrity on the part of the American
democracy both falsified the spirit in which our institutions had
originated, and seriously compromised their future success. The Union
had been wrought by virtue of vigorous, responsible, and enterprising
leadership, and of sound and consistent political thinking. It was to be
perpetuated by a company of men, who disbelieved in enterprising and
responsible leadership, and who had abandoned and tended to disparage
anything but the most routine political ideas. The American people,
after passing through a period of positive achievement, distinguished in
all history for the powerful application of brains to the solution of an
organic political problem--the American people, after this almost
unprecedented exhibition of good-will and good judgment, proceeded to
put a wholly false interpretation on their remarkable triumph. They
proceeded, also, to cultivate a state of mind which has kept them
peculiarly liable to intellectual ineptitude and conformity. The mixture
of optimism, conservatism, and superficiality, which has until recently
characterized their political point of view, has made them almost blind
to the true lessons of their own national experience.

The best that can be said on behalf of this traditional American system
of political ideas is that it contained the germ of better things. The
combination of Federalism and Republicanism which formed the substance
of the system, did not constitute a progressive and formative political
principle, but it pointed in the direction of a constructive formula.
The political leaders of the "era of good feeling" who began to use with
some degree of conviction certain comely phrases about the eternal and
inseparable alliance between "liberty and union" were looking towards
the promised land of American democratic fulfillment. As we shall see,
the kind of liberty and the kind of union which they had in mind were by
no means indissolubly and inseparably united; and both of these words
had to be transformed from a negative and legal into a positive moral
and social meaning before the boasted alliance could be anything but
precarious and sterile. But if for liberty we substitute the word
democracy, which means something more than liberty, and if for union, we
substitute the phrase American nationality, which means so much more
than a legal union, we shall be looking in the direction of a fruitful
alliance between two supplementary principles. It can, I believe, be
stated without qualification that wherever the nationalist idea and
tendency has been divided from democracy, its achievements have been
limited and partially sterilized. It can also be stated that the
separation of the democratic idea from the national principle and
organization has issued not merely in sterility, but in moral and
political mischief. All this must remain mere assertion for the present;
but I shall hope gradually to justify these assertions by an examination
of the subsequent course of American political development.




The first phase of American political history was characterized by the
conflict between the Federalists and the Republicans, and it resulted in
the complete triumph of the latter. The second period was characterized
by an almost equally bitter contest between the Democrats and the Whigs
in which the Democrats represented a new version of the earlier
Republican tradition and the Whigs a resurrected Federalism. The
Democracy of Jackson differed in many important respects from the
Republicanism of Jefferson, and the Whig doctrine of Henry Clay was far
removed from the Federalism of Alexander Hamilton. Nevertheless, from
1825 to 1850, the most important fact in American political development
continued to be a fight between an inadequate conception of democracy,
represented by Jackson and his followers, and a feeble conception of
American nationality, represented best by Henry Clay and Daniel Webster;
and in this second fight the victory still rested, on the whole, with
the Democrats. The Whigs were not annihilated as the Federalists had
been. In the end they perished as a party, but not because of the
assaults of their opponents, but because of their impotence in the face
of a grave national crisis. Nevertheless, they were on all essential
issues beaten by the Democrats; and on the few occasions on which they
were victorious, their victories were both meaningless and fruitless.

The years between 1800 and 1825 were distinguished, so far as our
domestic development was concerned, by the growth of the Western pioneer
Democracy in power and self-consciousness. It was one of the gravest
errors of Hamilton and the Federalists that they misunderstood and
suspected the pioneer Democracy, just as it was one of the greatest
merits of Jefferson that he early appreciated its importance and used
his influence and power to advance its interests. The consequence was
that the pioneers became enthusiastic and radical supporters of the
Republican party. They repeated and celebrated the Jeffersonian
catchwords with the utmost conviction. They became imbued with the
spirit of the true Jeffersonian faith. They were, indeed, in many
respects more Jeffersonian than Jefferson himself, and sought to realize
some of his ideas with more energy and consistency. These ideas
expressed and served their practical needs marvelously well, and if the
formulas had not already been provided by Jefferson, they would most
assuredly have been crystallized by the pioneer politicians of the day.
The Jeffersonian creed has exercised a profound influence upon the
thought of the American people, not because Jefferson was an original
and profound thinker, but because of his ability to formulate popular
opinions, prejudices, and interests.

It is none the less true that the pioneer Democracy soon came to differ
with Jefferson about some important questions of public policy. They
early showed, for instance, a lively disapproval of Jefferson's
management of the crisis in foreign affairs, which preceded the War of
1812. Jefferson's policy of commercial embargo seemed pusillanimous to
Jackson and the other Western Democrats. They did not believe in
peaceful warfare; and their different conception of the effective way of
fighting a foreign enemy was symptomatic of a profound difference of
opinion and temper. The Western Democracy did not share Jefferson's
amiable cosmopolitanism. It was, on the contrary, aggressively resolved
to assert the rights and the interests of the United States against any
suspicion of European aggrandizement. However much it preferred a
let-alone policy in respect to the domestic affairs, all its instincts
revolted against a weak foreign policy; and its instincts were outraged
by the administration's policy of peaceful warfare, which injured
ourselves so much more than it injured England, not only because the
pioneers were fighting men by conviction and habit, but because they
were much more genuinely national in their feelings than were Jefferson
and Madison.

The Western Democrats finally forced Madison and the official Republican
leaders to declare war against England, because Madison preferred even a
foreign war to the loss of popularity; but Madison, although he accepted
the necessity of war, was wholly incompetent to conduct it efficiently.
The inadequacy of our national organization and our lack of national
cohesion was immediately and painfully exhibited. The Republican
superstition about militarism had prevented the formation of a regular
army at all adequate to the demands of our national policy, and the
American navy, while efficient so far as it went, was very much too
small to constitute an effective engine of naval warfare. Moreover, the
very Congress that clearly announced an intention of declaring war on
Great Britain failed to make any sufficient provision for its energetic
prosecution. The consequence of this short-sighted view of our national
responsibilities is that the history of the War of 1812 makes painful
reading for a patriotic American. The little American navy earned
distinction, but it was so small that its successes did not prevent it
from being shut off eventually from the high seas. The military
operations were a succession of blunders both in strategy and in
performance. On the northern frontier a series of incompetent generals
led little armies of half-hearted soldiers to unnecessary defeats or at
best to ineffectual victories; and the most conspicuous military success
was won at New Orleans by the Western pioneers, who had no
constitutional scruples about fighting outside of their own states, and
who were animated by lively patriotic feelings. On the whole, however,
the story makes humiliating reading, not because the national Capital
was captured almost without resistance, or because we were so frequently
beaten, but because our disorganization, the incompetence of the
national government, and the disloyalty of so many Americans made us
deserve both a less successful war and a more humiliating peace.

The chief interest of the second English war for the purpose of this
book is, however, its clear indication of the abiding-place at that time
of the American national spirit. That spirit was not found along the
Atlantic coast, whose inhabitants were embittered and blinded by party
and sectional prejudices. It was resident in the newer states of the
West and the Southwest. A genuine American national democracy was coming
into existence in that part of the country--a democracy which was as
democratic as it knew how to be, while at the same time loyal and
devoted to the national government. The pioneers had in a measure
outgrown the colonialism of the thirteen original commonwealths. They
occupied a territory which had in the beginning been part of the
national domain. Their local commonwealths had not antedated the
Federal Union, but were in a way children of the central government; and
they felt that they belonged to the Union in a way that was rarely
shared by an inhabitant of Massachusetts or South Carolina. Their
national feeling did not prevent them from being in some respects
extremely local and provincial in their point of view. It did not
prevent them from resenting with the utmost energy any interference of
the Federal government in what they believed to be their local affairs.
But they were none the less, first and foremost, loyal citizens of the
American Federal state.



We must consider carefully this earliest combination of the national
with the democratic idea. The Western Democracy is important, not only
because it played the leading part in our political history down to
1850, but precisely because it does offer, in a primitive but
significant form, a combination of the two ideas, which, when united,
constitute the formative principle in American political and social
development. The way had been prepared for this combination by the
Republican acceptance of the Federal organization, after that party had
assumed power; but the Western Democrats took this alliance much more
innocently than the older Republican leaders. They insisted, as we have
seen, on a declaration of war against Great Britain; and humiliating as
were the results of that war, this vigorous assertion of the national
point of view, both exposed in clear relief the sectional disloyalty of
the Federalists of New England and resulted later in an attempted
revival of a national constructive policy. It is true that the
regeneration of the Hamiltonian spirit belongs rather to the history of
the Whigs than to the history of the Democrats. It is true, also, that
the attempted revival at once brought out the inadequacy of the
pioneer's conceptions both of the national and the democratic ideas.
Nevertheless, it was their assertion of the national interest against a
foreign enemy which provoked its renewed vitality in relation to our
domestic affairs. Whatever the alliance between nationality and
democracy, represented by the pioneers, lacked in fruitful understanding
of the correlative ideas, at least it was solid alliance. The Western
Democrats were suspicious of any increase of the national organization
in power and scope, but they were even more determined that it should be
neither shattered nor vitally injured. Although they were unable to
grasp the meaning of their own convictions, the Federal Union really
meant to them something more than an indissoluble legal contract. It was
rooted in their life. It was one of those things for which they were
willing to fight; and their readiness to fight for the national idea was
the great salutary fact. Our country was thereby saved from the
consequences of its distracting individualistic conception of democracy,
and its merely legal conception of nationality. It was because the
followers of Jackson and Douglas did fight for it, that the Union was

Be it immediately remarked, however, that the pioneer Democrats were
obliged to fight for the Union, just because they were not interested in
its progressive consummation. They willed at one and the same time that
the Union _should_ be preserved, but that it _should not_ be increased
and strengthened. They were national in feeling, but local and
individualistic in their ideas; and these limited ideas were associated
with a false and inadequate conception of democracy. Jefferson had
taught them to believe that any increase of the national organization
was inimical to democracy. The limitations of their own economic and
social experience and of their practical needs confirmed them in this
belief. Their manner of life made them at once thoroughly loyal and
extremely insubordinate. They combined the sincerest patriotism with an
energetic and selfish individualism; and they failed wholly to realize
any discrepancy between these two dominant elements in their life. They
were to love their country, but they were to work for themselves; and
nothing wrong could happen to their country, provided they preserved its
institutions and continued to enjoy its opportunities. Their failure to
grasp the idea that the Federal Union would not take care of itself,
prevented them from taking disunionist ideas seriously, and encouraged
them to provoke a crisis, which, subsequently, their fundamental loyalty
to the Union prevented from becoming disastrous. They expected their
country to drift to a safe harbor in the Promised Land, whereas the
inexorable end of a drifting ship is either the rocks or the shoals.

In their opposition to the consolidation of the national organization,
the pioneers believed that they were defending the citadel of their
democratic creed. Democracy meant to them, not only equal opportunities
secured by law, but an approximately equal standing among individual
citizens, and an approximately equal division of the social and economic
fruits. They realized vaguely that national consolidation brought with
it organization, and organization depended for its efficiency upon a
classification of individual citizens according to ability, knowledge,
and competence. In a nationalized state, it is the man of exceptional
position, power, responsibility, and training who is most likely to be
representative and efficient, whereas in a thoroughly democratic state,
as they conceived it, the average man was the representative citizen and
the fruitful type. Nationalization looked towards the introduction and
perpetuation of a political, social, and financial hierarchy. They
opposed it consequently, on behalf of the "plain people"; and they even
reached the conclusion that the contemporary political system was to
some extent organized for the benefit of special interests. They
discovered in the fiscal and administrative organization the presence of
discrimination against the average man. The National Bank was an example
of special economic privileges. The office-holding clique was an example
of special political privileges. Jackson and his followers declared war
on these sacrilegious anomalies in the temple of democracy. Thus the
only innovations which the pioneers sought to impose on our national
political system were by way of being destructive. They uprooted a
national institution which had existed, with but one brief interruption,
for more than forty years; and they entirely altered the tradition of
appointment in the American civil service. Both of these destructive
achievements throw a great deal of light upon their unconscious
tendencies and upon their explicit convictions, and will help us to
understand the value and the limitation of the positive contribution
which the pioneers made to the fullness of the American democratic idea.

The National Bank was the institution by virtue of which Hamilton sought
to secure a stable national currency and an efficient national fiscal
agent; and the Bank, particularly under its second charter, had
undoubtedly been a useful and economical piece of financial machinery.
The Republicans had protested against it in the beginning, but they had
later come to believe in its necessity; and at the time Benton and
Jackson declared war upon it, the Bank was, on the whole, and in spite
of certain minor and local grievances, a popular institution. If the
question of the re-charter of the National Bank had been submitted to
popular vote in 1832, a popular majority would probably have declared in
its favor. Jackson's victory was due partly to his personal popularity,
partly to the unwise manner in which the Bank was defended, but chiefly
to his success in convincing public opinion that the Bank was an
institution whose legal privileges were used to the detriment of the
American people. As a matter of fact, such was not the case. The Bank
was a semi-public corporation, upon which certain exceptional privileges
had been conferred, because the enjoyment of such privileges was
inseparable from the services it performed and the responsibilities it
assumed. When we consider how important those services were, and how
difficult it has since been to substitute any arrangement, which
provides as well both a flexible and a stable currency and for the
articulation of the financial operations of the Federal Treasury with
those of the business of the country, it does not look as if the
emoluments and privileges of the Bank were disproportionate to its
services. But Jackson and his followers never even considered whether
its services and responsibilities were proportionate to its legal
privileges. The fact that any such privilege existed, the fact that any
legal association of individuals should enjoy such exceptional
opportunities, was to their minds a violation of democratic principles.
It must consequently be destroyed, no matter how much the country needed
its services, and no matter how difficult it was to establish in its
place any equally efficient institution.

The important point is, however, that the campaign against the National
Bank uncovered a latent socialism, which lay concealed behind the
rampant individualism of the pioneer Democracy. The ostensible grievance
against the Bank was the possession by a semi-public corporation of
special economic privileges; but the anti-Bank literature of the time
was filled half unconsciously with a far more fundamental complaint.
What the Western Democrats disliked and feared most of all was the
possession of any special power by men of wealth. Their crusade against
the "Money Power" meant that in their opinion money must not become a
power in a democratic state. They had no objection, of course, to
certain inequalities in the distribution of wealth; but they fiercely
resented the idea that such inequalities should give a group of men any
special advantages which were inaccessible to their fellow-countrymen.
The full meaning of their complaint against the Bank was left vague and
ambiguous, because the Bank itself possessed special legal privileges;
and the inference was that when these privileges were withdrawn, the
"Money Power" would disappear with them. The Western Democrat devoutly
believed that an approximately equal division of the good things of life
would result from the possession by all American citizens of equal legal
rights and similar economic opportunities. But the importance of this
result in their whole point of view was concealed by the fact that they
expected to reach it by wholly negative means--that is, by leaving the
individual alone. The substantially equal distribution of wealth, which
was characteristic of the American society of their own day, was far
more fundamental in their system of political and social ideas than was
the machinery of liberty whereby it was to be secured. And just as soon
as it becomes apparent that the proposed machinery does as a matter of
fact accomplish a radically unequal result, their whole political and
economic creed cries loudly for revision.

The introduction of the spoils system was due to the perverted
application of kindred ideas. The emoluments of office loomed large
among the good things of life to the pioneer Democrat; and such
emoluments differed from other economic rewards, in that they were
necessarily at the disposal of the political organization. The public
offices constituted the tangible political patrimony of the American
people. It was not enough that they were open to everybody. They must
actually be shared by almost everybody. The terms of all elected
officials must be short, so that as many good democrats as possible
could occupy an easy chair in the house of government; and officials
must for similar reasons be appointed for only short terms. Traditional
practice at Washington disregarded these obvious inferences from the
principles of true democracy. Until the beginning of Jackson's first
administration the offices in the government departments had been
appropriated by a few bureaucrats who had grown old at their posts; and
how could such a permanent appropriation be justified? The pioneer
Democrat believed that he was as competent to do the work as any member
of an office-holding clique, so that when he came into power, he
corrected what seemed to him to be a genuine abuse in the traditional
way of distributing the American political patrimony. He could not
understand that training, special ability, or long experience
constituted any special claim upon a public office, or upon any other
particular opportunity or salary. One democrat was as good as another,
and deserved his share of the rewards of public service. The state could
not undertake to secure a good living to all good democrats, but, when
properly administered, it could prevent any appropriation by a few
people of the public pay-roll.

In the long run the effect of the spoils system was, of course, just the
opposite of that anticipated by the early Jacksonian Democrats. It
merely substituted one kind of office-holding privilege for another. It
helped to build up a group of professional politicians who became in
their turn an office-holding clique--the only difference being that one
man in his political life held, not one, but many offices. Yet the
Jacksonian Democrat undoubtedly believed, when he introduced the system
into the Federal civil service, that he was carrying out a desirable
reform along strictly democratic lines. He was betrayed into such an
error by the narrowness of his own experience and of his intellectual
outlook. His experience had been chiefly that of frontier life, in which
the utmost freedom of economic and social movement was necessary; and he
attempted to apply the results of this limited experience to the
government of a complicated social organism whose different parts had
very different needs. The direct results of the attempt were very
mischievous. He fastened upon the American public service a system of
appointment which turned political office into the reward of partisan
service, which made it unnecessary for the public officials to be
competent and impossible for them to be properly experienced, and which
contributed finally to the creation of a class of office-holding
politicians. But the introduction of the spoils system had a meaning
superior to its results. It was, after all, an attempt to realize an
ideal, and the ideal was based on a genuine experience. The "Virginian
Oligarchy," although it was the work of Jefferson and his followers, was
an anachronism in a state governed in the spirit of Jeffersonian
Democratic principles. It was better for the Jacksonian Democrats to
sacrifice what they believed to be an obnoxious precedent to their
principles than to sacrifice their principles to mere precedent. If in
so doing they were making a mistake, that was because their principles
were wrong. The benefit which they were temporarily conferring on
themselves, as a class in the community, was sanctioned by the letter
and the spirit of their creed.

Closely connected with their perverted ideas and their narrow view of
life, we may discern a leaven of new and useful democratic experience.
The new and useful experience which they contributed to our national
stock was that of homogeneous social intercourse. I have already
remarked that the Western pioneers were the first large body of
Americans who were genuinely national in feeling. They were also the
first large body of Americans who were genuinely democratic in feeling.
Consequently they imparted a certain emotional consistency to the
American democracy, and they thereby performed a social service which
was in its way quite as valuable as their political service. Democracy
has always been stronger as a political than it has as a social force.
When adopted as a political ideal of the American people, it was very
far from possessing any effective social vitality; and until the present
day it has been a much more active force in political than in social
life. But whatever traditional social force it has obtained, can be
traced directly to the Western pioneer Democrat. His democracy was based
on genuine good-fellowship. Unlike the French Fraternity, it was the
product neither of abstract theories nor of a disembodied
humanitarianism. It was the natural issue of their interests, their
occupations, and their manner of life. They felt kindly towards one
another and communicated freely with one another because they were not
divided by radical differences in class, standards, point of view, and
wealth. The social aspect of their democracy may, in fact, be compared
to the sense of good-fellowship which pervades the rooms of a properly
constituted club.

Their community of feeling and their ease of communication had come
about as the result of pioneer life in a self-governing community. The
Western Americans were confronted by a gigantic task of overwhelming
practical importance,--the task of subduing to the needs of complicated
and civilized society a rich but virgin wilderness. This task was one
which united a desirable social purpose with a profitable individual
interest. The country was undeveloped, and its inhabitants were poor.
They were to enrich themselves by the development of the country, and
the two different aspects of their task were scarcely distinguished.
They felt themselves authorized by social necessity to pursue their own
interests energetically and unscrupulously, and they were not either
hampered or helped in so doing by the interference of the local or the
national authorities. While the only people the pioneer was obliged to
consult were his neighbors, all his surroundings tended to make his
neighbors like himself--to bind them together by common interests,
feelings, and ideas. These surroundings called for practical, able,
flexible, alert, energetic, and resolute men, and men of a different
type had no opportunity of coming to the surface. The successful pioneer
Democrat was not a pleasant type in many respects, but he was saved from
many of the worst aspects of his limited experience and ideas by a
certain innocence, generosity, and kindliness of spirit. With all his
willful aggressiveness he was a companionable person who meant much
better towards his fellows than he himself knew.

We need to guard scrupulously against the under-valuation of the advance
which the pioneers made towards a genuine social democracy. The freedom
of intercourse and the consistency of feeling which they succeeded in
attaining is an indispensable characteristic of a democratic society.
The unity of such a state must lie deeper than any bond established by
obedience to a single political authority, or by the acceptance of
common precedents and ideas. It must be based in some measure upon an
instinctive familiarity of association, upon a quick communicability of
sympathy, upon the easy and effortless sense of companionship. Such
familiar intercourse is impossible, not only in a society with
aristocratic institutions, but it can with difficulty be attained in a
society that has once had aristocratic institutions. A century more or
less of political democracy has not introduced it into France, and in
1830 it did not exist along the Atlantic seaboard at all to the same
extent that it did in the newer states of the West. In those states the
people, in a sense, really lived together. They were divided by fewer
barriers than have been any similarly numerous body of people in the
history of the world; and it was this characteristic which made them so
efficient and so easily directed by their natural leaders. No doubt it
would be neither possible nor desirable to reproduce a precisely similar
consistency of feeling over a social area in which there was a greater
diversity of manners, standards, and occupations; but it remains true
that the American democracy will lose its most valuable and promising
characteristic in case it loses the homogeneity of feeling which the
pioneers were the first to embody.

It is equally important to remember, however, that the social
consistency of the pioneer communities should under different conditions
undergo a radical transformation. Neither the pioneers themselves nor
their admirers and their critics have sufficiently understood how much
individual independence was sacrificed in order to obtain this
consistency of feeling, or how completely it was the product, in the
form it assumed, of temporary economic conditions. If we study the
Western Democrats as a body of men who, on the whole, responded
admirably to the conditions and opportunities of their time, but who
were also very much victimized and impoverished by the limited nature of
these conditions and opportunities--if we study the Western Democrat
from that point of view, we shall find him to be the most significant
economic and social type in American history. On the other hand, if we
regard him in the way that he and his subsequent prototypes wish to be
regarded, as the example of all that is permanently excellent and
formative in American democracy, he will be, not only entirely
misunderstood, but transformed from an edifying into a mischievous type.

Their peculiar social homogeneity, and their conviction that one man was
as good as another, was the natural and legitimate product of
contemporary economic conditions. The average man, without any special
bent or qualifications, was in the pioneer states the useful man. In
that country it was sheer waste to spend much energy upon tasks which
demanded skill, prolonged experience, high technical standards, or
exclusive devotion. The cheaply and easily made instrument was the
efficient instrument, because it was adapted to a year or two of use and
then for supersession by a better instrument; and for the service of
such tools one man was as likely to be good as another. No special
equipment was required. The farmer was obliged to be all kinds of a
rough mechanic. The business man was merchant, manufacturer, and
storekeeper. Almost everybody was something of a politician. The number
of parts which a man of energy played in his time was astonishingly
large. Andrew Jackson was successively a lawyer, judge, planter,
merchant, general, politician, and statesman; and he played most of
these parts with conspicuous success. In such a society a man who
persisted in one job, and who applied the most rigorous and exacting
standards to his work, was out of place and was really inefficient. His
finished product did not serve its temporary purpose much better than
did the current careless and hasty product, and his higher standards and
peculiar ways constituted an implied criticism upon the easy methods of
his neighbors. He interfered with the rough good-fellowship which
naturally arises among a group of men who submit good-naturedly and
uncritically to current standards.

It is no wonder, consequently, that the pioneer Democracy viewed with
distrust and aversion the man with a special vocation and high standards
of achievement. Such a man did insist upon being in certain respects
better than the average; and under the prevalent economic social
conditions he did impair the consistency of feeling upon which the
pioneers rightly placed such a high value. Consequently they half
unconsciously sought to suppress men with special vocations. For the
most part this suppression was easily accomplished by the action of
ordinary social and economic motives. All the industrial, political, and
social rewards went to the man who pursued his business, professional,
or political career along regular lines; and in this way an ordinary
task and an interested motive were often imposed on men who were better
qualified for special tasks undertaken from disinterested motives. But
it was not enough to suppress the man with a special vocation by
depriving him of social and pecuniary rewards. Public opinion must be
taught to approve of the average man as the representative type of the
American democracy, so that the man with a special vocation may be
deprived of any interest or share in the American democratic tradition;
and this attempt to make the average man the representative American
democrat has persisted to the present day--that is, to a time when the
average man is no longer, as in 1830, the dominant economic factor.

It is in this way, most unfortunately, that one of the leading articles
in the American popular creed has tended to impair American moral and
intellectual integrity. If the man with special standards and a special
vocation interfered with democratic consistency of feeling, it was
chiefly because this consistency of feeling had been obtained at too
great a sacrifice--at the sacrifice of a higher to a lower type of
individuality. In all civilized communities the great individualizing
force is the resolute, efficient, and intense pursuit of special ideals,
standards, and occupations; and the country which discourages such
pursuits must necessarily put up with an inferior quality and a less
varied assortment of desirable individual types. But whatever the loss
our country has been and is suffering from this cause, our popular
philosophers welcome rather than deplore it. We adapt our ideals of
individuality to its local examples. When orators of the Jacksonian
Democratic tradition begin to glorify the superlative individuals
developed by the freedom of American life, what they mean by
individuality is an unusual amount of individual energy successfully
spent in popular and remunerative occupations. Of the individuality
which may reside in the gallant and exclusive devotion to some
disinterested, and perhaps unpopular moral, intellectual, or technical
purpose, they have not the remotest conception; and yet it is this kind
of individuality which is indispensable to the fullness and intensity of
American national life.



The Jacksonian Democrats were not, of course, absolutely dominant during
the Middle Period of American history. They were persistently, and on a
few occasions successfully, opposed by the Whigs. The latter naturally
represented the political, social, and economic ideas which the
Democrats under-valued or disparaged. They were strong in those Northern
and border states, which had reached a higher stage of economic and
social development, and which contained the mansions of contemporary
American culture, wealth, and intelligence. It is a significant fact
that the majority of Americans of intelligence during the Jacksonian
epoch were opponents of Jackson, just as the majority of educated
Americans of intelligence have always protested against the national
political irresponsibility and the social equalitarianism characteristic
of our democratic tradition; but unfortunately they have always failed
to make their protests effective. The spirit of the times was against
them. The Whigs represented the higher standards, the more definite
organization, and the social inequalities of the older states, but when
they attempted to make their ideas good, they were faced by a dilemma
either horn of which was disastrous to their interests. They were
compelled either to sacrifice their standards to the conditions of
popular efficiency or the chance of success to the integrity of their
standards. In point of fact they pursued precisely the worst course of
all. They abandoned their standards, and yet they failed to achieve
success. Down to the Civil War the fruits of victory and the prestige of
popularity were appropriated by the Democrats.

The Whigs, like their predecessors, the Federalists, were ostensibly the
party of national ideas. Their association began with a group of
Jeffersonian Republicans who, after the second English war, sought to
resume the interrupted work of national consolidation. The results of
that war had clearly exposed certain grave deficiencies in the American
national organization; and these deficiencies a group of progressive
young men, under the lead of Calhoun and Clay, proposed to remedy. One
of the greatest handicaps from which the military conduct of the war had
suffered was the lack of any sufficient means of internal communication;
and the construction of a system of national roads and waterways became
an important plank in their platform. There was also proposed a policy
of industrial protection which Calhoun supported by arguments so
national in import and scope that they might well have been derived
from Hamilton's report. Under the influence of similar ideas the
National Bank was rechartered; and as the correlative of this
constructive policy, a liberal nationalistic interpretation of the
Constitution was explicitly advocated. As one reads the speeches
delivered by some of these men, particularly by Calhoun, during the
first session of Congress after the conclusion of peace, it seems as if
a genuine revival had taken place of Hamiltonian nationalism, and that
this revival was both by way of escaping Hamilton's fatal distrust of
democracy and of avoiding the factious and embittered opposition of the
earlier period.

The Whigs made a fair start, but unfortunately they ran a poor race and
came to a bad end. No doubt they were in a way an improvement on the
Federalists, in that they, like their opponents, the Democrats, stood
for a combination between democracy and nationalism. They believed that
the consolidation and the development of the national organization was
contributory rather than antagonistic to the purpose of the American
political system. Yet they made no conquests on behalf of their
convictions. The Federalists really accomplished a great and necessary
task of national organization and founded a tradition of constructive
national achievement. The Whigs at best kept this tradition alive. They
were on the defensive throughout, and they accomplished nothing at all
in the way of permanent constructive legislation. Their successes were
merely electioneering raids, whereas their defeats were wholly
disastrous in that they lost, not only all of their strongholds, but
most of their military reputation and good name. Their final
disappearance was wholly the result of their own incapacity. They were
condemned somehow to inefficiency, defeat, and dishonor.

Every important article in their programme went astray. The policy of
internal improvements in the national interest and at the national
expense was thwarted by the Constitutional scruples of such Presidents
as Monroe and Jackson, and for that reason it could never be discussed
on its merits. The Cumberland Road was the only great national highway
constructed, and remains to this day a striking symbol of what the
Federal government might have accomplished towards the establishment of
an efficient system of inter-state communication. The re-charter of the
National Bank which was one of the first fruits of the new national
movement, proved in the end to be the occasion of its most flagrant
failure. The Bank was the national institution for the perpetuation of
which the Whig leaders fought most persistently and loyally. They began
the fight with the support of public opinion, and with the prestige of
an established and useful institution in their favor; but the campaign
was conducted with such little skill that in the end they were utterly
beaten. Far from being able to advance the policy of national
consolidation, they were unable even to preserve existing national
institutions, and their conspicuous failure in this crucial instance was
due to their inability to keep public opinion convinced of the truth
that the Bank was really organized and maintained in the national
interest. Their policy of protection met in the long run with a similar
fate. In the first place, the tariff schedules which they successively
placed upon the statute books were not drawn up in Hamilton's wise and
moderate national spirit. They were practically dictated by the special
interests which profited from the increases in duties. The Whig leaders
accepted a retainer from the manufacturers of the North, and by
legislating exclusively in their favor almost drove South Carolina to
secession. Then after accomplishing this admirable feat, they agreed to
placate the disaffected state by the gradual reduction in the scale of
duties until there was very little protection left. In short, they first
perverted the protectionist system until it ceased to be a national
policy; and then compromised it until it ceased to be any policy at all.

Perhaps the Whigs failed and blundered most completely in the fight
which they made against the Federal executive and in the interest of the
Federal legislature. They were forced into this position, because for
many years the Democrats, impersonated by Jackson, occupied the
Presidential chair, while the Whigs controlled one or both of the
Congressional bodies; but the attitude of the two opposing parties in
respect to the issue corresponded to an essential difference of
organization and personnel. The Whigs were led by a group of brilliant
orators and lawyers, while the Democrats were dominated by one powerful
man, who held the Presidential office. Consequently the Whigs
proclaimed a Constitutional doctrine which practically amounted to
Congressional omnipotence, and for many years assailed Jackson as a
military dictator who was undermining the representative institutions of
his country. The American people, however, appraised these fulminations
at their true value. While continuing for twelve years to elect to the
Presidency Jackson or his nominee, they finally dispossessed the Whigs
from the control of Congress; and they were right. The American people
have much more to fear from Congressional usurpation than they have from
executive usurpation. Both Jackson and Lincoln somewhat strained their
powers, but for good purposes, and in essentially a moderate and candid
spirit; but when Congress attempts to dominate the executive, its
objects are generally bad and its methods furtive and dangerous. Our
legislatures were and still are the strongholds of special and local
interests, and anything which undermines executive authority in this
country seriously threatens our national integrity and balance. It is to
the credit of the American people that they have instinctively
recognized this fact, and have estimated at their true value the tirades
which men no better than Henry Clay level against men no worse than
Andrew Jackson.

The reason for the failure of the Whigs was that their opponents
embodied more completely the living forces of contemporary American
life. Jackson and his followers prevailed because they were simple,
energetic, efficient, and strong. Their consistency of feeling and their
mutual loyalty enabled them to form a much more effective partisan
organization than that of the Whigs. It is one of those interesting
paradoxes, not uncommon in American history, that the party which
represented official organization and leadership was loosely organized
and unwisely led, while the party which distrusted official organization
and surrounded official leadership with rigid restraints was most
efficiently organized and was for many years absolutely dominated by a
single man. At bottom, of course, the difference between the two parties
was a difference in vitality. All the contemporary conditions worked in
favor of the strong narrow man with prodigious force of will like Andrew
Jackson, and against men like Henry Clay and Daniel Webster who had more
intelligence, but were deficient in force of character and singleness
of purpose. The former had behind him the impulse of a great popular
movement which was sweeping irresistibly towards wholly unexpected
results; and the latter, while ostensibly trying to stem the tide, were
in reality carried noisily along on its flood.

Daniel Webster and Henry Clay were in fact faced by an alternative
similar to that which sterilized the lives of almost all their
contemporaries who represented an intellectual interest. They were men
of national ideas but of something less than national feeling. Their
interests, temperament, and manner of life prevented them from
instinctively sympathizing with the most vital social and political
movement of their day. If they wanted popularity, they had to purchase
it by compromises, whereas Andrew Jackson obtained a much larger popular
following by acting strictly in accordance with the dictates of his
temperament and ideas. He was effective and succeeded because his
personality was representative of the American national democracy,
whereas they failed, on the whole, because the constituency they
represented concealed limited sympathies and special interests under
words of national import. Jackson, who in theory was the servant and
mouthpiece of his followers, played the part of a genuine leader in his
campaign against the National Bank; while the Whigs, who should have
been able to look ahead and educate their fellow-countrymen up to the
level of their presumably better insight, straggled along in the rear of
the procession.

The truth is that the Democrats, under the lead of Jackson, were
temporarily the national party, although they used their genuinely
national standing to impose in certain respects a group of anti-national
ideas on their country. The Whigs, on the other hand, national as they
might be in ideas and aspirations, were in effect not much better than a
faction. Finding that they could not rally behind their ideas an
effective popular following, they were obliged to seek support, partly
at the hands of special interests and partly by means of the sacrifice
of their convictions. Under their guidance the national policy became a
policy of conciliation and compromise at any cost, and the national idea
was deprived of consistency and dignity. It became equivalent to a
hodge-podge of policies and purposes, the incompatibility of whose
ingredients was concealed behind a smooth crust of constitutional
legality and popular acquiescence. The national idea and interest, that
is, was not merely disarmed and ignored, as it had been by Jefferson. It
was mutilated and distorted in obedience to an erroneous democratic
theory; and its friends, the Whigs, deluded themselves with the belief
that in draining the national idea of its vitality they were prolonging
its life. But if its life was saved, its safety was chiefly due to its
ostensible enemies. While the Whigs were less national in feeling and
purpose than their ideas demanded, the Democrats were more national than
they knew. From 1830 to 1850 American nationality was being attenuated
as a conscious idea, but the great unconscious forces of American life
were working powerfully and decisively in its favor.

Most assuredly the failure of the Whigs is susceptible of abundant
explanation. Prevailing conditions were inimical to men whose strength
lay more in their intelligence than in their will. It was a period of
big phrases, of personal motives and altercations, of intellectual
attenuation, and of narrow, moral commonplaces,--all of which made it
very difficult for any statesman to see beyond his nose, or in case he
did, to act upon his knowledge. Yet in spite of all this, it does seem
as if some Whig might have worked out the logic of the national idea
with as much power and consistency as Calhoun worked out the logic of
his sectional idea. That no Whig rose to the occasion is an indication
that in sacrificing their ideas they were sacrificing also their
personal integrity. Intellectual insincerity and irresponsibility was in
the case of the Democrats the outcome of their lives and their point of
view; but on the part of the Whigs it was equivalent to sheer
self-prostitution. Jefferson's work had been done only too well. The
country had become so entirely possessed by a system of individual
aggrandizement, national drift, and mental torpor that the men who for
their own moral and intellectual welfare should have opposed it, were
reduced to the position of hangers-on; and the dangers of the situation
were most strikingly revealed by the attitude which contemporary
statesmen assumed towards the critical national problem of the
period,--the problem of the existence of legalized slavery in a
democratic state.




Both the Whig and the Democratic parties betrayed the insufficiency of
their ideas by their behavior towards the problem of slavery. Hitherto I
have refrained from comment on the effect which the institution of
slavery was coming to have upon American politics because the increasing
importance of slavery, and of the resulting anti-slavery agitation,
demand for the purpose of this book special consideration. Such a
consideration must now be undertaken. The bitter personal and partisan
controversies of the Whigs and the Democrats were terminated by the
appearance of a radical and a perilous issue; and in the settlement of
this question the principles of both of these parties, in the manner in
which they had been applied, were of no vital assistance.

The issue was created by the legal existence in the United States of an
essentially undemocratic institution. The United States was a democracy,
and however much or little this phrase means, it certainly excludes any
ownership of one man by another. Yet this was just what the Constitution
sanctioned. Its makers had been confronted by the legal existence of
slavery in nearly all of the constituent states; and a refusal to
recognize the institution would have resulted in the failure of the
whole scheme of Constitutional legislation. Consequently they did not
seek to forbid negro servitude; and inasmuch as it seemed at that time
to be on the road to extinction through the action of natural causes,
the makers of the Constitution had a good excuse for refusing to
sacrifice their whole project to the abolition of slavery, and in
throwing thereby upon the future the burden of dealing with it in some
more radical and consistent way. Later, however, it came to pass that
slavery, instead of being gradually extinguished by economic causes, was
fastened thereby more firmly than ever upon one section of the country.
The whole agricultural, political, and social life of the South became
dominated by the existence of negro slavery; and the problem of
reconciling the expansion of such an institution with the logic of our
national idea was bound to become critical. Our country was committed by
every consideration of national honor and moral integrity to make its
institutions thoroughly democratic, and it could not continue to permit
the aggressive legal existence of human servitude without degenerating
into a glaring example of political and moral hypocrisy.

The two leading political parties deliberately and persistently sought
to evade the issue. The Western pioneers were so fascinated with the
vision of millions of pale-faced democrats, leading free and prosperous
lives as the reward for virtuously taking care of their own business,
that the Constitutional existence of negro slavery did not in the least
discommode them. Disunionism they detested and would fight to the end;
but to waste valuable time in bothering about a perplexing and an
apparently irremediable political problem was in their eyes the worst
kind of economy. They were too optimistic and too superficial to
anticipate any serious trouble in the Promised Land of America; and they
were so habituated to inconsistent and irresponsible political thinking,
that they attached no importance to the moral and intellectual turpitude
implied by the existence of slavery in a democratic nation. The
responsibility of the Whigs for evading the issue is more serious than
that of the Democrats. Their leaders were the trained political thinkers
of their generation. They were committed by the logic of their party
platform to protect the integrity of American national life and to
consolidate its organization. But the Whigs, almost as much as the
Democrats, refused to take seriously the legal existence of slavery.
They shirked the problem whenever they could and for as long as they
could; and they looked upon the men who persisted in raising it aloft as
perverse fomenters of discord and trouble. The truth is, of course, that
both of the dominant parties were merely representing the prevailing
attitude towards slavery of American public opinion. That attitude was
characterized chiefly by moral and intellectual cowardice. Throughout
the whole of the Middle Period the increasing importance of negro
servitude was the ghost in the house of the American democracy. The
good Americans of the day sought to exorcise the ghost by many amiable
devices. Sometimes they would try to lock him up in a cupboard;
sometimes they would offer him a soothing bribe; more often they would
be content with shutting their eyes and pretending that he was not
present. But in proportion as he was kindly treated he persisted in
intruding, until finally they were obliged to face the alternative,
either of giving him possession of the house or taking possession of it

Foreign commentators on American history have declared that a peaceable
solution of the slavery question was not beyond the power of wise and
patriotic statesmanship. This may or may not be true. No solution of the
problem could have been at once final and peaceable, unless it provided
for the ultimate extinction of slavery without any violation of the
Constitutional rights of the Southern states; and it may well be that
the Southern planters could never have been argued or persuaded into
abolishing an institution which they eventually came to believe was a
righteous method of dealing with an inferior race. Nobody can assert
with any confidence that they could have been brought by candid,
courageous, and just negotiation and discussion into a reasonable frame
of mind; but what we do know and can assert is that during the three
decades from 1820 to 1850, the national political leaders made
absolutely no attempt to deal resolutely, courageously, or candidly with
the question. On those occasions when it _would_ come to the surface,
they contented themselves and public opinion with meaningless
compromises. It would have been well enough to frame compromises suited
to the immediate occasion, provided the problem of ultimately
extinguishing slavery without rending the Union had been kept
persistently on the surface of political discussion: but the object of
these compromises was not to cure the disease, but merely to allay its
symptoms. They would not admit that slavery was a disease; and in the
end this habit of systematic drifting and shirking on the part of
moderate and sensible men threw the national responsibility upon
Abolitionist extremists, in whose hands the issue took such a distorted
emphasis that gradually a peaceable preservation of American national
integrity became impossible.

The problem of slavery was admirably designed to bring out the confusion
of ideas and the inconsistency resident in the traditional American
political system. The groundwork of that system consisted, as we have
seen, in the alliance between democracy, as formulated in the
Jeffersonian creed, and American nationality, as embodied in the
Constitutional Union; and the two dominant political parties of the
Middle Period, the Whigs and the Jacksonian Democrats, both believed in
the necessity of such an alliance. But negro slavery, just in so far as
it became an issue, tended to make the alliance precarious. The national
organization embodied in the Constitution authorized not only the
existence of negro slavery, but its indefinite expansion. American
democracy, on the other hand, as embodied in the Declaration of
Independence and in the spirit and letter of the Jeffersonian creed, was
hostile from certain points of view to the institution of negro slavery.
Loyalty to the Constitution meant disloyalty to democracy, and an active
interest in the triumph of democracy seemed to bring with it the
condemnation of the Constitution. What, then, was a good American to do
who was at once a convinced democrat and a loyal Unionist?

The ordinary answer to this question was, of course, expressed in the
behavior of public opinion during the Middle Period. The thing to do was
to shut your eyes to the inconsistency, denounce anybody who insisted on
it as unpatriotic, and then hold on tight to both horns of the dilemma.
Men of high intelligence, who really loved their country, and believed
in the democratic idea, persisted in this attitude, whose ablest and
most distinguished representative was Daniel Webster. He is usually
considered as the most eloquent and effective expositor of American
nationalism who played an important part during the Middle Period; and
unquestionably he came nearer to thinking nationally than did any
American statesman of his generation. He defended the Union against the
Nullifiers as decisively in one way as Jackson did in another. Jackson
flourished his sword, while Webster taught American public opinion to
consider the Union as the core and the crown of the American political
system. His services in giving the Union a more impressive place in the
American political imagination can scarcely be over-estimated. Had the
other Whig leaders joined him in refusing to compromise with the
Nullifiers and in strengthening by legislation the Federal government
as an expression of an indestructible American national unity, a
precedent might have been established which would have increased the
difficulty of a subsequent secessionist outbreak. But Henry Clay
believed in compromises (particularly when his own name was attached to
them) as the very substance of a national American policy; and Webster
was too much of a Presidential candidate to travel very far on a lonely
path. Moreover, there was a fundamental weakness in Webster's own
position, which was gradually revealed as the slavery crisis became
acute. He could be bold and resolute, when defending a nationalistic
interpretation of the Constitution against the Nullifiers or the
Abolitionists; but when the slaveholders themselves became aggressive in
policy and separatist in spirit, the courage of his convictions deserted
him. If an indubitably Constitutional institution, such as slavery,
could be used as an ax with which to hew at the trunk of the
Constitutional tree, his whole theory of the American system was
undermined, and he could speak only halting and dubious words. He was as
much terrorized by the possible consequences of any candid and
courageous dealing with the question as were the prosperous business men
of the North; and his luminous intelligence shed no light upon a
question, which evaded his Constitutional theories, terrified his will,
and clouded the radiance of his patriotic visions.

The patriotic formula, of which Webster was the ablest and most eloquent
expositor, was fairly torn to pieces by the claws of the problem of
slavery. The formula triumphantly affirmed the inseparable relation
between individual liberty and the preservation of the Federal Union;
but obviously such a formula could have no validity from the point of
view of a Southerner. The liberties which men most cherish are those
which are guaranteed to them by law--among which one of the most
important from the Southerner's point of view was the right to own negro
bondsmen. As soon as it began to appear that the perpetuation of the
Union threatened this right, they were not to be placated with any
glowing proclamation about the inseparability of liberty in general from
an indestructible union. From the standpoint of their own most cherished
rights, they could put up a very strong argument on behalf of disunion;
and they had as much of the spirit of the Constitution on their side as
had their opponents. That instrument was intended not only to give legal
form to the Union of the American commonwealths and the American people,
but also to guarantee certain specified rights and liberties. If, on the
one hand, negro slavery undermined the moral unity and consequently the
political integrity of the American people, and if on the other, the
South stubbornly insisted upon its legal right to property in negroes,
the difficulty ran too deep to be solved by peaceable Constitutional
means. The legal structure of American nationality became a house
divided against itself, and either the national principle had to be
sacrificed to the Constitution or the Constitution to the national

The significance of the whole controversy does not become clear, until
we modify Webster's formula about the inseparability of liberty and
union, and affirm in its place the inseparability of American
nationality and American democracy. The Union had come to mean something
more to the Americans of the North than loyalty to the Constitution. It
had come to mean devotion to a common national idea,--the idea of
democracy; and while the wiser among them did not want to destroy the
Constitution for the benefit of democracy, they insisted that the
Constitution should be officially stigmatized as in this respect an
inadequate expression of the national idea. American democracy and
American nationality are inseparably related, precisely because
democracy means very much more than liberty or liberties, whether
natural or legal, and nationality very much more than an indestructible
legal association. Webster's formula counseled an evasion of the problem
of slavery. From his point of view it was plainly insoluble. But an
affirmation of an inseparable relationship between American nationality
and American democracy would just as manifestly have demanded its
candid, courageous, and persistent agitation.

The slavery question, when it could no longer be avoided, gradually
separated the American people into five different political parties or
factions--the Abolitionists, the Southern Democrats, the Northern
Democrats, the Constitutional Unionists, and the Republicans. Each of
these factions selected one of the several alternative methods of
solution or evasion, to which the problem of negro slavery could be
reduced, and each deserves its special consideration.

Of the five alternatives, the least substantial was that of the
Constitutional Unionists. These well-meaning gentlemen, composed for the
most part of former Whigs, persisted in asserting that the Constitution
was capable of solving every political problem generated under its
protection; and this assertion, in the teeth of the fact that the Union
had been torn asunder by means of a Constitutional controversy, had
become merely an absurdity. Up to 1850 the position of such
Constitutional Unionists as Webster and Clay could be plausibly
defended; but after the failure of that final compromise, it was plain
that a man of any intellectual substance must seek support for his
special interpretation of the Constitution by means of a special
interpretation of the national idea. That slavery was Constitutional
nobody could deny, any more than they could deny the Constitutionality
of anti-slavery agitation. The real question, to which the controversy
had been reduced, had become, Is slavery consistent with the principle
which constitutes the basis of American national integrity--the
principle of democracy?

Each of the four other factions answered this question in a different
way; and every one of these answers was derived from different aspects
of the system of traditional American ideas. The Abolitionists believed
that a democratic state, which ignored the natural rights proclaimed by
the Declaration of Independence, was a piece of organized political
hypocrisy,--worthy only of destruction. The Southerners believed that
democracy meant above all the preservation of recognized Constitutional
rights in property of all kinds, and freedom from interference in the
management of their local affairs. The Northern Democrats insisted just
as strenuously as the South on local self-government, and tried to erect
it into the constituent principle of democracy; but they were loyal to
the Union and would not admit either that slavery could be nationalized,
or that secession had any legal justification. Finally the Republicans
believed with the Abolitionists that slavery was wrong; while they
believed with the Northern Democrats that the Union must be preserved;
and it was their attempt to de-nationalize slavery as undemocratic and
at the same time to affirm the indestructibility of the Union, which
proved in the end to be salutary.

Surely never was there a more distressing example of confusion of
thought in relation to a "noble national theory." The traditional
democratic system of ideas provoked fanatical activity on the part of
the Abolitionists, as the defenders of "natural rights," a kindred
fanaticism in the Southerners as the defenders of legal rights, and
moral indifference and lethargy on the part of the Northern Democrat for
the benefit of his own local interests. The behavior of all three
factions was dictated by the worship of what was called liberty; and the
word was as confidently and glibly used by Calhoun and Davis as it was
by Garrison, Webster, and Douglas. The Western Democrat, and indeed the
average American, thought of democratic liberty chiefly as individual
freedom from legal discrimination and state interference in doing some
kind of a business. The Abolitionist was even more exclusively
preoccupied with the liberty which the Constitution denied to the negro.
The Southerners thought only of the Constitutional rights, which the
Abolitionists wished to abolish, and the Republicans to restrict. Each
of the contending parties had some justification in dwelling exclusively
upon the legal or natural rights, in which they were most interested,
because the system of traditional American ideas provided no positive
principle, in relation to which these conflicting liberties could be
classified and valued. It is in the nature of liberties and rights,
abstractly considered, to be insubordinate and to conflict both one with
another and, perhaps, with the common weal. If the chief purpose of a
democratic political system is merely the preservation of such rights,
democracy becomes an invitation to local, factional, and individual
ambitions and purposes. On the other hand, if these Constitutional and
natural rights are considered a temporary philosophical or legal
machinery, whereby a democratic society is to reach a higher moral and
social consummation, and if the national organization is considered
merely as an effective method of keeping the legal and moral machinery
adjusted to the higher democratic purpose, then no individual or faction
or section could claim the benefit of a democratic halo for its
distracting purposes and ambitions. Instead of subordinating these
conflicting rights and liberties to the national idea, and erecting the
national organization into an effective instrument thereof, the national
idea and organization was subordinated to individual local and factional
ideas and interests. No one could or would recognize the constructive
relation between the democratic purpose and the process of national
organization and development. The men who would rend the national body
in order to protect their property in negro slaves could pretend to be
as good democrats as the men who would rend in order to give the negro
his liberty. And if either of these hostile factions had obtained its
way, the same disastrous result would have been accomplished. American
national integrity would have been destroyed, and slavery on American
soil, in a form necessarily hostile to democracy, would have been



I have already suggested that it was the irresponsibility and the
evasions of the party politicians, which threw upon the Abolitionists
the duty of fighting slavery as an undemocratic institution. They took
up the cause of the negro in a spirit of religious self-consecration.
The prevalence of irresolution and timidity in relation to slavery among
the leaders of public opinion incited the Abolitionists to a high degree
of courage and exclusive devotion; and unfortunately, also, the
conciliating attitude of the official leaders encouraged on the part of
the Abolitionists an outburst of fanaticism. In their devotion to their
adopted cause they lost all sense of proportion, all balance of
judgment, and all justice of perception; and their narrowness and want
of balance is in itself a sufficient indication that they were possessed
of a half, instead of a whole, truth.

The fact that the Abolitionists were disinterested and for a while
persecuted men should not prevent the present generation from putting a
just estimate on their work. While they redeemed the honor of their
country by assuming a grave and hard national responsibility, they
sought to meet that responsibility in a way that would have destroyed
their country. The Abolitionists, no less than the Southerners, were
tearing at the fabric of American nationality. They did it, no doubt, in
the name of democracy; but of all perverted conceptions of democracy,
one of the most perverted and dangerous is that which identifies it
exclusively with a system of natural rights. Such a conception of
democracy is in its effect inevitably revolutionary, and merely loosens
the social and national bond. In the present instance they were betrayed
into one of the worst possible sins against the national bond--into the
sin of doing a gross personal injustice to a large group of their
fellow-countrymen. Inasmuch as the Southerners were willfully violating
a Divine law, they became in the eyes of the Abolitionists, not merely
mis-guided, but wicked, men; and the Abolitionists did not scruple to
speak of them as unclean beasts, who were fattening on the fruits of an
iniquitous institution. But such an inference was palpably false. The
Southern slave owners were not unclean beasts; and any theory which
justified such an inference must be erroneous. They were, for the most
part, estimable if somewhat quick-tempered and irascible gentlemen, who
did much to mitigate the evils of negro servitude, and who were on the
whole liked rather than disliked by their bondsmen. They were right,
moreover, in believing that the negroes were a race possessed of moral
and intellectual qualities inferior to those of the white men; and,
however much they overworked their conviction of negro inferiority, they
could clearly see that the Abolitionists were applying a narrow and
perverted political theory to a complicated and delicate set of economic
and social conditions. It is no wonder, consequently, that they did not
submit tamely to the abuse of the Abolitionists; and that they in their
turn lost their heads. Unfortunately, however, the consequence of their
wrong-headedness was more disastrous than it was in the case of the
Abolitionists, because they were powerful and domineering, as well as
angry and unreasonable. They were in a position, if they so willed, to
tear the Union to pieces, whereas the Abolitionists could only talk and
behave as if any legal association with such sinners ought to be

The Southern slaveholders, then, undoubtedly had a grievance. They were
being abused by a faction of their fellow-countrymen, because they
insisted on enjoying a strictly legal right; and it is no wonder that
they began to think of the Abolitionists very much as the Abolitionists
thought of them. Moreover, their anger was probably increased by the
fact that the Abolitionists could make out some kind of a case against
them. Property in slaves was contrary to the Declaration of
Independence, and had been denounced in theory by the earlier American
democrats. So long as a conception of democracy, which placed natural
above legal rights was permitted to obtain, their property in slaves
would be imperiled: and it was necessary, consequently, for the
Southerners to advance a conception of democracy, which would stand as a
fortress around their "peculiar" institution. During the earlier days of
the Republic no such necessity had existed. The Southerners had merely
endeavored to protect their negro property by insisting on an equal
division of the domain out of which future states were to be carved, and
upon the admission into the Union of a slave state to balance every new
free commonwealth. But the attempt of the Abolitionists to identify the
American national idea with a system of natural rights, coupled with the
plain fact that the national domain contained more material for free
than it did for slave states, provoked the Southerners into taking more
aggressive ground. They began to identify the national idea exclusively
with a system of legal rights; and it became from their point of view a
violation of national good faith even to criticise any rights enjoyed
under the Constitution. They advanced a conception of American
democracy, which defied the Constitution in its most rigid
interpretation,--which made Congress incompetent to meddle with any
rights enjoyed under the Constitution, which converted any protest
against such rights into national disloyalty, and which in the end
converted secession into a species of higher Constitutional action.

Calhoun's theory of Constitutional interpretation was ingeniously
wrought and powerfully argued. From an exclusively legal standpoint, it
was plausible, if not convincing; but it was opposed by something deeper
than counter-theories of Constitutional law. It was opposed to the
increasingly national outlook of a large majority of the American
people. They would not submit to a conception of the American political
system, designed exclusively to give legal protection to property in
negroes, and resulting substantially in the nationalization of slavery.
They insisted upon a conception of the Constitution, which made the
national organization the expression of a democratic idea, more
comprehensive and dignified than that of existing legal rights; and in
so doing the Northerners undoubtedly had behind them, not merely the
sound political idea, but also a fair share of the living American
tradition. The Southerners had pushed the traditional worship of
Constitutional rights to a point which subordinated the whole American
legal system to the needs of one peculiar and incongruous institution,
and such an innovation was bound to be revolutionary. But when the North
proposed to put its nationalistic interpretation of the Constitution
into effect, and to prevent the South by force from seceding, the South
could claim for its resistance a larger share of the American tradition
than could the North for its coercion. To insist that the Southern
states remain in the Union was assuredly an attempt to govern a whole
society without its consent; and the fact that the Southerners rather
than the Northerners were technically violators of the law, did not
prevent the former from going into battle profoundly possessed with the
conviction that they were fighting for an essentially democratic cause.

The aggressive theories and policy of the Southerners made the moderate
opponents of slavery realize that the beneficiaries of that institution
would, unless checked, succeed eventually in nationalizing slavery by
appropriating on its behalf the national domain. A body of public
opinion was gradually formed, which looked in the direction merely of
de-nationalizing slavery by restricting its expansion. This body of
public opinion was finally organized into the Republican party; and this
party has certain claims to be considered the first genuinely national
party which has appeared in American politics. The character of being
national has been denied to it, because it was, compared to the old Whig
and Democratic parties, a sectional organization; but a party becomes
national, not by the locus of its support, but by the national import of
its idea and its policy. The Republican party was not entirely national,
because it had originated partly in embittered sectional feeling, but it
proclaimed a national idea and a national policy. It insisted on the
responsibility of the national government in relation to the institution
of slavery, and it insisted also that the Union should be preserved. But
before the Republicanism could be recognized as national even in the
North, it was obliged to meet and vanquish one more proposed treatment
of the problem of slavery--founded on an inadequate conception of
democracy. In this case, moreover, the inadequate conception of
democracy was much more traditionally American than was an exclusive
preoccupation either with natural or legal rights; and according to its
chief advocate it would have the magical result of permitting the
expansion of slavery, and of preserving the Constitutional Union,
without doing any harm to democracy.

This was the theory of Popular Sovereignty, whose ablest exponent was
Stephen Douglas. About 1850, he became the official leader of the
Western Democracy. This section of the party no longer controlled the
organization as it did in the days of Jackson; but it was still powerful
and influential. It persisted in its loyalty to the Union coupled with
its dislike of nationalizing organization; and it persisted, also, in
its dislike of any interference with the individual so long as he was
making lawful money. The legal right to own slaves was from their point
of view a right like another; and not only could it not be taken away
from the Southern states, but no individual should be deprived of it by
the national government. When a state came to be organized, such a right
might be denied by the state constitution; but the nation should do
nothing to prejudice the decision. The inhabitants of the national
domain should be allowed to own slaves or not to own them, just as they
pleased, until the time came for the adoption of a state constitution;
and any interference with this right violated democratic principles by
an unjustifiable restriction upon individual and local action. Thus was
another kind of liberty invoked in order to meet the new phase of the
crisis; and if it had prevailed, the United States would have become a
legal union without national cohesion, and a democracy which issued, not
illogically, in human servitude.

Douglas was sincere in his belief that the principle of local or Popular
Sovereignty supplied a strictly democratic solution of the slavery
problem, and it was natural that he should seek to use this principle
for the purpose of reaching a permanent settlement. When with the
assistance of the South he effected the repeal of the Missouri
Compromise, he honestly thought that he was replacing an arbitrary and
unstable territorial division of the country into slave and free
states, by a settlement which would be stable, because it was the
logical product of the American democratic idea. The interpretation of
democracy which dictated the proposed solution was sufficiently
perverted; but it was nevertheless a faithful reflection of the
traditional point of view of the Jacksonian Democratic party, and it
deserves more respectful historical treatment than it sometimes
receives. It was, after all, the first attempt which had been made to
legislate in relation to slavery on the basis of a principle, and the
application of any honest idea to the subject-matter of the controversy
served to clear an atmosphere which for thirty years had been clouded by
unprincipled compromises. The methods and the objects of the several
different parties were made suddenly definite and unmistakable; and
their representatives found it necessary for the first time to stand
firmly upon their convictions instead of sacrificing them in order to
maintain an appearance of peace. It soon became apparent that not even
this erection of national irresponsibility into a principle would be
sufficient to satisfy the South, because the interests of the South had
come to demand the propagation of slavery as a Constitutional right, and
if necessary in defiance of local public opinion. Unionists were
consequently given to understand that the South was offering them a
choice between a divided Union and the nationalization of slavery; and
they naturally drew the conclusion that they must de-nationalize slavery
in order to perpetuate the Union. The repeal, consequently, hastened the
formation of the Republican party, whose object it was to prevent the
expansion of slavery and to preserve the Union, without violating the
Constitutional rights of the South. Such a policy could no longer
prevail without a war. The Southerners had no faith in the fair
intentions of their opponents. They worked themselves into the belief
that The whole anti-slavery party was Abolitionist, and the whole
anti-slavery agitation national disloyalty. But the issue had been so
shaped that the war could be fought for the purpose of preserving
American national integrity; and that was the only issue on which a
righteous war could be fought.

Thus the really decisive debates which preceded the Civil War were not
those which took place in Congress over states-rights, but rather the
discussion in Illinois between Lincoln and Douglas as to whether
slavery was a local or a national issue. The Congressional debates were
on both sides merely a matter of legal special pleading for the purpose
of justifying a preconceived decision. What it was necessary for
patriotic American citizens and particularly for Western Democrats to
understand was, not whether the South possessed a dubious right of
secession, because that dispute, in case it came to a head, could only
be settled by war; but whether a democratic nation could on democratic
principles continue to shirk the problem of slavery by shifting the
responsibility for it to individuals and localities. As soon as Lincoln
made it plain that a democratic nation could not make local and
individual rights an excuse for national irresponsibility, then the
Unionist party could count upon the support of the American conscience.
The former followers of Douglas finally rallied to the man and to the
party which stood for a nationalized rather than a merely localized
democracy; and the triumph of the North in the war, not only put an end
to the legal right of secession, but it began to emancipate the American
national idea from an obscurantist individualism and provincialism. Our
current interpretation of democracy still contains much dubious matter
derived from the Jacksonian epoch; but no American statesmen can
hereafter follow Douglas in making the democratic principle equivalent
to utter national incoherence and irresponsibility.

Mr. Theodore Roosevelt in his addresses to the veterans of the Civil War
has been heard to assert that the crisis teaches us a much-needed lesson
as to the supreme value of moral energy. It would have been much
pleasanter and cheaper to let the South secede, but the people of the
North preferred to pay the cost of justifiable coercion in blood and
treasure than to submit to the danger and humiliation of peaceable
rebellion. Doubtless the foregoing is sometimes a wholesome lesson on
which to insist, but it is by no means the only lesson suggested by the
event. The Abolitionists had not shirked their duty as they understood
it. They had given their property and their lives to the anti-slavery
agitation. But they were as willing as the worst Copperheads to permit
the secession of the South, because of the erroneous and limited
character of their political ideas. While the crisis had undoubtedly
been, in a large measure, brought about by moral lethargy, and it could
only be properly faced by a great expenditure of moral energy, it had
also been brought about quite as much by political unintelligence; and
the salvation of the Union depended primarily and emphatically upon a
better understanding on the part of Northern public opinion of the
issues involved. Confused as was the counsel offered to them, and
distracting as were their habits of political thought, the people of the
North finally disentangled the essential question, and then supported
loyally the man who, more than any other single political leader, had
properly defined the issue.

That man was Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln's peculiar service to his
countrymen before the war was that of seeing straighter and thinking
harder than did his contemporaries. No doubt he must needs have courage,
also, for in the beginning he acted against the advice of his Republican
associates. But in 1858 there were plenty of men who had the courage,
whereas there were very few who had Lincoln's disciplined intelligence
and his just and penetrating insight. Lincoln's vision placed every
aspect of the situation in its proper relations; and he was as fully
competent to detect the logical weakness of his opponent's position as
he was to explain his own lucidly, candidly, and persuasively. It so
happened that the body of public opinion which he particularly addressed
was that very part of the American democracy most likely to be deluded
into allowing the Southern leaders to have their will, yet whose
adhesion to the national cause was necessary to the preservation of the
Union. It was into this mass of public opinion, after the announcement
of his senatorial candidacy, that he hammered a new and a hard truth. He
was the first responsible politician to draw the logical inference from
the policy of the Republican party. The Constitution was inadequate to
cure the ills it generated. By its authorization of slavery it
established an institution whose legality did not prevent it from being
anti-national. That institution must either be gradually reduced to
insignificance, or else it must transform and take possession of the
American national idea. The Union had become a house divided against
itself; and this deep-lying division could not be bridged merely by
loyal Constitutionalism or by an anti-national interpretation of
democracy. The legal Union was being threatened precisely because
American national integrity was being gutted by an undemocratic
institution. The house must either fall or else cease to be divided.
Thus for the first time it was clearly proclaimed by a responsible
politician that American nationality was a living principle rather than
a legal bond; and Lincoln's service to his country in making the Western
Democracy understand that living Americans were responsible for their
national integrity can scarcely be over-valued. The ground was cut from
under the traditional point of view of the pioneer--which had been to
feel patriotic and national, but to plan and to agitate only for the
fulfillment of local and individual ends.

The virtue of Lincoln's attitude may seem to be as much a matter of
character as of intelligence; and such, indeed, is undoubtedly the case.
My point is, not that Lincoln's greatness was more a matter of intellect
than of will, but that he rendered to his country a peculiar service,
because his luminous and disciplined intelligence and his national
outlook enabled him to give each aspect of a complicated and confused
situation its proper relative emphasis. At a later date, when he had
become President and was obliged to take decisive action in order to
prevent the House from utterly collapsing, he showed an inflexibility of
purpose no less remarkable than his previous intellectual insight. For
as long as he had not made up his mind, he hesitated firmly and
patiently; but when he had made up his mind, he was not to be confused
or turned aside. Indeed, during the weeks of perplexity which preceded
the bombardment of Fort Sumter, Lincoln sometimes seems to be the one
wise and resolute man among a group of leaders who were either resolute
and foolish or wise (after a fashion) and irresolute. The amount of bad
advice which was offered to the American people at this moment is
appalling, and is to be explained only by the bad moral and intellectual
habits fastened upon our country during forty years of national
turpitude. But Lincoln never for an instant allowed his course to be
diverted. If the Union was attacked, he was prepared actively to defend
it. If it was let alone, he was prepared to do what little he could
towards the de-nationalization of slavery. But he refused absolutely to
throw away the fruits of Republican victory by renewing the policy of
futile and unprincipled compromises. Back of all his opinions there was
an ultimate stability of purpose which was the result both of sound
mental discipline and of a firm will. His was a mind, unlike that of
Clay, Seward, or even Webster, which had never been cheapened by its own
exercise. During his mature years he rarely, if ever, proclaimed an idea
which he had not mastered, and he never abandoned a truth which he had
once thoroughly achieved.



Lincoln's services to his country have been rewarded with such abundant
appreciation that it may seem superfluous to insist upon them once
again; but I believe that from the point of view of this book an even
higher value may be placed, if not upon his patriotic service, at least
upon his personal worth. The Union might well have been saved and
slavery extinguished without his assistance; but the life of no other
American has revealed with anything like the same completeness the
peculiar moral promise of genuine democracy. He shows us by the full but
unconscious integrity of his example the kind of human excellence which
a political and social democracy may and should fashion; and its most
grateful and hopeful aspect is, not merely that there is something
partially American about the manner of his excellence, but that it can
be fairly compared with the classic types of consummate personal

To all appearance nobody could have been more than Abraham Lincoln a man
of his own time and place. Until 1858 his outer life ran much in the
same groove as that of hundreds of other Western politicians and
lawyers. Beginning as a poor and ignorant boy, even less provided with
props and stepping-stones than were his associates, he had worked his
way to a position of ordinary professional and political distinction. He
was not, like Douglas, a brilliant success. He was not, like Grant, an
apparently hopeless failure. He had achieved as much and as little as
hundreds of others had achieved. He was respected by his neighbors as
an honest man and as a competent lawyer. They credited him with
ability, but not to any extraordinary extent. No one would have pointed
him out as a remarkable and distinguished man. He had shown himself to
be desirous of recognition and influence; but ambition had not been the
compelling motive in his life. In most respects his ideas, interests,
and standards were precisely the same as those of his associates. He
accepted with them the fabric of traditional American political thought
and the ordinary standards of contemporary political morality. He had
none of the moral strenuousness of the reformer, none of the
exclusiveness of a man, whose purposes and ideas were consciously
perched higher than those of his neighbors. Probably the majority of his
more successful associates classed him as a good and able man who was
somewhat lacking in ambition and had too much of a disposition to loaf.
He was most at home, not in his own house, but in the corner grocery
store, where he could sit with his feet on the stove swapping stories
with his friends; and if an English traveler of 1850 had happened in on
the group, he would most assuredly have discovered another instance of
the distressing vulgarity to which the absence of an hereditary
aristocracy and an established church condemned the American democracy.
Thus no man could apparently have been more the average product of his
day and generation. Nevertheless, at bottom, Abraham Lincoln differed as
essentially from the ordinary Western American of the Middle Period as
St. Francis of Assisi differed from the ordinary Benedictine monk of the
thirteenth century.

The average Western American of Lincoln's generation was fundamentally a
man who subordinated his intelligence to certain dominant practical
interests and purposes. He was far from being a stupid or slow-witted
man. On the contrary, his wits had been sharpened by the traffic of
American politics and business, and his mind was shrewd, flexible, and
alert. But he was wholly incapable either of disinterested or of
concentrated intellectual exertion. His energies were bent in the
conquest of certain stubborn external forces, and he used his
intelligence almost exclusively to this end. The struggles, the
hardships, and the necessary self-denial of pioneer life constituted an
admirable training of the will. It developed a body of men with great
resolution of purpose and with great ingenuity and fertility in
adapting their insufficient means to the realization of their important
business affairs. But their almost exclusive preoccupation with
practical tasks and their failure to grant their intelligence any room
for independent exercise bent them into exceedingly warped and one-sided
human beings.

Lincoln, on the contrary, much as he was a man of his own time and
people, was precisely an example of high and disinterested intellectual
culture. During all the formative years in which his life did not
superficially differ from that of his associates, he was in point of
fact using every chance which the material of Western life afforded to
discipline and inform his mind. These materials were not very abundant;
and in the use which he proceeded to make of them Lincoln had no
assistance, either from a sound tradition or from a better educated
master. On the contrary, as the history of the times shows, there was
every temptation for a man with a strong intellectual bent to be
betrayed into mere extravagance and aberration. But with the sound
instinct of a well-balanced intelligence Lincoln seized upon the three
available books, the earnest study of which might best help to develop
harmoniously a strong and many-sided intelligence. He seized, that is,
upon the Bible, Shakespeare, and Euclid. To his contemporaries the Bible
was for the most part a fountain of fanatic revivalism, and Shakespeare,
if anything, a mine of quotations. But in the case of Lincoln,
Shakespeare and the Bible served, not merely to awaken his taste and
fashion his style, but also to liberate his literary and moral
imagination. At the same time he was training his powers of thought by
an assiduous study of algebra and geometry. The absorbing hours he spent
over his Euclid were apparently of no use to him in his profession; but
Lincoln was in his way an intellectual gymnast and enjoyed the exertion
for its own sake. Such a use of his leisure must have seemed a sheer
waste of time to his more practical friends, and they might well have
accounted for his comparative lack of success by his indulgence in such
secret and useless pastimes. Neither would this criticism have been
beside the mark, for if Lincoln's great energy and powers of work had
been devoted exclusively to practical ends, he might well have become in
the early days a more prominent lawyer and politician than he actually
was. But he preferred the satisfaction of his own intellectual and
social instincts, and so qualified himself for achievements beyond the
power of a Douglas.

In addition, however, to these private gymnastics Lincoln shared with
his neighbors a public and popular source of intellectual and human
insight. The Western pioneers, for all their exclusive devotion to
practical purposes, wasted a good deal of time on apparently useless
social intercourse. In the Middle Western towns of that day there was,
as we have seen, an extraordinary amount of good-fellowship, which was
quite the most wholesome and humanizing thing which entered into the
lines of these hard-working and hard-featured men. The whole male
countryside was in its way a club; and when the presence of women did
not make them awkward and sentimental, the men let themselves loose in
an amount of rough pleasantry and free conversation, which added the one
genial and liberating touch to their lives. This club life of his own
people Lincoln enjoyed and shared much more than did his average
neighbor. He passed the greater part of what he would have called his
leisure time in swapping with his friends stories, in which the genial
and humorous side of Western life was embodied. Doubtless his domestic
unhappiness had much to do with his vagrancy; but his native instinct
for the wholesome and illuminating aspect of the life around him brought
him more frequently than any other cause to the club of loafers in the
general store. And whatever the promiscuous conversation and the racy
yarns meant to his associates, they meant vastly more to Lincoln. His
hours of social vagrancy really completed the process of his
intellectual training. It relieved his culture from the taint of
bookishness. It gave substance to his humor. It humanized his wisdom and
enabled him to express it in a familiar and dramatic form. It placed at
his disposal, that is, the great classic vehicle of popular expression,
which is the parable and the spoken word.

Of course, it was just because he shared so completely the amusements
and the occupations of his neighbors that his private personal culture
had no embarrassing effects. Neither he nor his neighbors were in the
least aware that he had been placed thereby in a different intellectual
class. No doubt this loneliness and sadness of his personal life may be
partly explained by a dumb sense of difference from his fellows; and no
doubt this very loneliness and sadness intensified the mental
preoccupation which was both the sign and the result of his personal
culture. But his unconsciousness of his own distinction, as well as his
regular participation in political and professional practice, kept his
will as firm and vigorous as if he were really no more than a man of
action. His natural steadiness of purpose had been toughened in the
beginning by the hardships and struggles which he shared with his
neighbors; and his self-imposed intellectual discipline in no way
impaired the stability of his character, because his personal culture
never alienated him from his neighbors and threw him into a consciously
critical frame of mind. The time which he spent in intellectual
diversion may have diminished to some extent his practical efficiency
previous to the gathering crisis. It certainly made him less inclined to
the aggressive self-assertion which a successful political career
demanded. But when the crisis came, when the minds of Northern patriots
were stirred by the ugly alternative offered to them by the South, and
when Lincoln was by the course of events restored to active
participation in politics, he soon showed that he had reached the
highest of all objects of personal culture. While still remaining one of
a body of men who, all unconsciously, impoverished their minds in order
to increase the momentum of their practical energy, he none the less
achieved for himself a mutually helpful relation between a firm will and
a luminous intelligence. The training of his mind, the awakening of his
imagination, the formation of his taste and style, the humorous
dramatizing of his experience,--all this discipline had failed to
pervert his character, narrow his sympathies, or undermine his purposes.
His intelligence served to enlighten his will, and his will, to
establish the mature decisions of his intelligence. Late in life the two
faculties became in their exercise almost indistinguishable. His
judgments, in so far as they were decisive, were charged with momentum,
and his actions were instinct with sympathy and understanding.

Just because his actions were instinct with sympathy and understanding,
Lincoln was certainly the most humane statesman who ever guided a
nation through a great crisis. He always regarded other men and acted
towards them, not merely as the embodiment of an erroneous or harmful
idea, but as human beings, capable of better things; and consequently
all of his thoughts and actions looked in the direction of a higher
level of human association. It is this characteristic which makes him a
better and, be it hoped, a more prophetic democrat than any other
national American leader. His peculiar distinction does not consist in
the fact that he was a "Man of the People" who passed from the condition
of splitting rails to the condition of being President. No doubt he was
in this respect as good a democrat as you please, and no doubt it was
desirable that he should be this kind of a democrat. But many other
Americans could be named who were also men of the people, and who passed
from the most insignificant to the most honored positions in American
life. Lincoln's peculiar and permanent distinction as a democrat will
depend rather upon the fact that his thoughts and his actions looked
towards the realization of the highest and most edifying democratic
ideal. Whatever his theories were, he showed by his general outlook and
behavior that democracy meant to him more than anything else the spirit
and principle of brotherhood. He was the foremost to deny liberty to the
South, and he had his sensible doubts about the equality between the
negro and the white man; but he actually treated everybody--the Southern
rebel, the negro slave, the Northern deserter, the personal enemy--in a
just and kindly spirit. Neither was this kindliness merely an instance
of ordinary American amiability and good nature. It was the result, not
of superficial feeling which could be easily ruffled, but of his
personal, moral, and intellectual discipline. He had made for himself a
second nature, compact of insight and loving-kindness.

It must be remembered, also, that this higher humanity resided in a man
who was the human instrument partly responsible for an awful amount of
slaughter and human anguish. He was not only the commander-in-chief of a
great army which fought a long and bloody war, but he was the statesman
who had insisted that, if necessary, the war should be fought. His
mental attitude was dictated by a mixture of practical common sense with
genuine human insight, and it is just this mixture which makes him so
rare a man and, be it hoped, so prophetic a democrat. He could at one
and the same moment order his countrymen to be killed for seeking to
destroy the American nation and forgive them for their error. His
kindliness and his brotherly feeling did not lead him, after the manner
of Jefferson, to shirk the necessity and duty of national defense.
Neither did it lead him, after the manner of William Lloyd Garrison, to
advocate non-resistance, while at the same time arousing in his
fellow-countrymen a spirit of fratricidal warfare. In the midst of that
hideous civil contest which was provoked, perhaps unnecessarily, by
hatred, irresponsibility, passion, and disloyalty, and which has been
the fruitful cause of national disloyalty down to the present day,
Lincoln did not for a moment cherish a bitter or unjust feeling against
the national enemies. The Southerners, filled as they were with a
passionate democratic devotion to their own interests and liberties,
abused Lincoln until they really came to believe that he was a military
tyrant, yet he never failed to treat them in a fair and forgiving
spirit. When he was assassinated, it was the South, as well as the
American nation, which had lost its best friend, because he alone among
the Republican leaders had the wisdom to see that the divided House
could only be restored by justice and kindness; and if there are any
defects in its restoration to-day, they are chiefly due to the baleful
spirit of injustice and hatred which the Republicans took over from the

His superiority to his political associates in constructive
statesmanship is measured by his superiority in personal character.
There are many men who are able to forgive the enemies of their country,
but there are few who can forgive their personal enemies. I need not
rehearse the well-known instances of Lincoln's magnanimity. He not only
cherished no resentment against men who had intentionally and even
maliciously injured him, but he seems at times to have gone out of his
way to do them a service. This is, perhaps, his greatest distinction.
Lincoln's magnanimity is the final proof of the completeness of his
self-discipline. The quality of being magnanimous is both the consummate
virtue and the one which is least natural. It was certainly far from
being natural among Lincoln's own people. Americans of his time were
generally of the opinion that it was dishonorable to overlook a
personal injury. They considered it weak and unmanly not to quarrel
with another man a little harder than he quarreled with you. The pioneer
was good-natured and kindly; but he was aggressive, quick-tempered,
unreasonable, and utterly devoid of personal discipline. A slight or an
insult to his personality became in his eyes a moral wrong which must be
cherished and avenged, and which relieved him of any obligation to be
just or kind to his enemy. Many conspicuous illustrations of this
quarrelsome spirit are to be found in the political life of the Middle
Period, which, indeed, cannot be understood without constantly falling
back upon the influence of lively personal resentments. Every prominent
politician cordially disliked or hated a certain number of his political
adversaries and associates; and his public actions were often dictated
by a purpose either to injure these men or to get ahead of them. After
the retirement of Jackson these enmities and resentments came to have a
smaller influence; but a man's right and duty to quarrel with anybody
who, in his opinion, had done him an injury was unchallenged, and was
generally considered to be the necessary accompaniment of American
democratic virility.

As I have intimated above, Andrew Jackson was the most conspicuous
example of this quarrelsome spirit, and for this reason he is wholly
inferior to Lincoln as a type of democratic manhood. Jackson had many
admirable qualities, and on the whole he served his country well. He
also was a "Man of the People" who understood and represented the mass
of his fellow-countrymen, and who played the part, according to his
lights, of a courageous and independent political leader. He also loved
and defended the Union. But with all his excellence he should never be
held up as a model to American youth. The world was divided into his
personal friends and followers and his personal enemies, and he was as
eager to do the latter an injury as he was to do the former a service.
His quarrels were not petty, because Jackson was, on the whole, a big
rather than a little man, but they were fierce and they were for the
most part irreconcilable. They bulk so large in his life that they
cannot be overlooked. They stamp him a type of the vindictive man
without personal discipline, just as Lincoln's behavior towards Stanton,
Chase, and others stamps him a type of the man who has achieved
magnanimity. He is the kind of national hero the admiring imitation of
whom can do nothing but good.

Lincoln had abandoned the illusion of his own peculiar personal
importance. He had become profoundly and sincerely humble, and his
humility was as far as possible from being either a conventional pose or
a matter of nervous self-distrust. It did not impair the firmness of his
will. It did not betray him into shirking responsibilities. Although
only a country lawyer without executive experience, he did not flinch
from assuming the leadership of a great nation in one of the gravest
crises of its national history, from becoming commander-in-chief of an
army of a million men, and from spending $3,000,000,000 in the
prosecution of a war. His humility, that is, was precisely an example of
moral vitality and insight rather than of moral awkwardness and
enfeeblement. It was the fruit of reflection on his own personal
experience--the supreme instance of his ability to attain moral truth
both in discipline and in idea; and in its aspect of a moral truth it
obtained a more explicit expression than did some other of his finer
personal attributes. His practice of cherishing and repeating the
plaintive little verses which inquire monotonously whether the spirit of
mortal has any right to be proud indicates the depth and the highly
conscious character of this fundamental moral conviction. He is not only
humble himself, but he feels and declares that men have no right to be
anything but humble; and he thereby enters into possession of the most
fruitful and the most universal of all religious ideas.

Lincoln's humility, no less than his liberal intelligence and his
magnanimous disposition, is more democratic than it is American; but in
this, as in so many other cases, his personal moral dignity and his
peculiar moral insight did not separate him from his associates. Like
them, he wanted professional success, public office, and the ordinary
rewards of American life; and like them, he bears no trace of political
or moral purism. But, unlike them, he was not the intellectual and moral
victim of his own purposes and ambitions; and unlike them, his life is a
tribute to the sincerity and depth of his moral insight. He could never
have become a national leader by the ordinary road of insistent and
clamorous self-assertion. Had he not been restored to public life by
the crisis, he would have remained in all probability a comparatively
obscure and a wholly under-valued man. But the political ferment of 1856
and the threat of ruin overhanging the American Union pushed him again
on to the political highway; and once there, his years of intellectual
discipline enabled him to play a leading and a decisive part. His
personality obtained momentum, direction, and increasing dignity from
its identification with great issues and events. He became the
individual instrument whereby an essential and salutary national purpose
was fulfilled; and the instrument was admirably effective, precisely
because it had been silently and unconsciously tempered and formed for
high achievement. Issue as he was of a society in which the cheap tool,
whether mechanical or personal, was the immediately successful tool, he
had none the less labored long in the making of a consummate individual

Some of my readers may protest that I have over-emphasized the
difference between Lincoln and his contemporary fellow-countrymen. In
order to exalt the leader have I not too much disparaged the followers?
Well, a comparison of this kind always involves the risk of unfairness;
but if there is much truth in the foregoing estimate of Lincoln, the
lessons of the comparison are worth its inevitable risk. The ordinary
interpretation of Lincoln as a consummate democrat and a "Man of the
People" has implied that he was, like Jackson, simply a bigger and a
better version of the plain American citizen; and it is just this
interpretation which I have sought to deny and to expose. In many
respects he was, of course, very much like his neighbors and associates.
He accepted everything wholesome and useful in their life and behavior.
He shared their good-fellowship, their strength of will, their excellent
faith, and above all their innocence; and he could never have served his
country so well, or reached as high a level of personal dignity, in case
he had not been good-natured and strong and innocent. But, as all
commentators have noted, he was not only good-natured, strong and
innocent; he had made himself intellectually candid, concentrated, and
disinterested, and morally humane, magnanimous, and humble. All these
qualities, which were the very flower of his personal life, were not
possessed either by the average or the exceptional American of his day;
and not only were they not possessed, but they were either wholly
ignored or consciously under-valued. Yet these very qualities of high
intelligence, humanity, magnanimity and humility are precisely the
qualities which Americans, in order to become better democrats, should
add to their strength, their homogeneity, and their innocence; while at
the same time they are just the qualities which Americans are prevented
by their individualistic practice and tradition from attaining or
properly valuing. Their deepest convictions make the average
unintelligent man the representative democrat, and the aggressive
successful individual, the admirable national type; and in conformity
with these convictions their uppermost ideas in respect to Lincoln are
that he was a "Man of the People" and an example of strong will. He was
both of these things, but his great distinction is that he was also
something vastly more and better. He cannot be fully understood and
properly valued as a national hero without an implicit criticism of
those traditional convictions. Such a criticism he himself did not and
could not make. In case he had made it, he could never have achieved his
great political task and his great personal triumph. But other times
bring other needs. It is as desirable to-day that the criticism should
be made explicit as it was that Lincoln himself in his day should
preserve the innocence and integrity of a unique unconscious example.




It is important to recognize that the anti-slavery agitation, the
secession of the South, and the Civil War were, after all, only an
episode in the course of American national development. The episode was
desperately serious. Like the acute illness of a strong man, it almost
killed its victim; and the crisis exposed certain weaknesses in our
political organism, in the absence of which the illness would never have
become acute. But the roots of our national vitality were apparently
untouched by the disease. When the crisis was over, the country resumed
with astonishing celerity the interrupted process of economic expansion.
The germs of a severe disease, to which the Fathers of the Republic had
given a place in the national Constitution, and which had been allowed
to flourish, because of the lack of wholesome cohesion in the body
politic--this alien growth had been cut out by a drastic surgical
operation, and the robust patient soon recovered something like his
normal health. Indeed, being in his own opinion even more robust than he
was before the crisis, he was more eager than ever to convert his good
health into the gold of satisfied desire. The ghost of slavery had been
banished from our national banquet: and, relieved of this terror, the
American people began to show, more aggressively than ever before, their
ability to provide and to consume a bountiful feast. They were no longer
children, grasping at the first fruits of a half-cultivated wilderness.
They were adults, beginning to plan the satisfaction of on appetite
which had been sharpened by self-denial, and made self-conscious by

The North, after the war was over, did not have much time for serious
reflection upon its meaning and consequences. The Republican leaders did
just enough thinking to carry them through the crisis; but once the
rebellion was suppressed and the South partly de-nationalized in the
name of reconstruction, the need and desire was for action rather than
for thought. The anti-slavery agitation and the war had interrupted the
process, which from the public point of view, was described as the
economic development of the country, and which from an individual
standpoint meant the making of money. For many years Americans had been
unable, because of the ghost of slavery, to take full advantage of their
liberties and opportunities; and now that the specter was exorcised,
they gladly put aside any anxious political preoccupations. Politics
could be left to the politicians. It was about time to get down to
business. In this happiest of all countries, and under this best of all
governments, which had been preserved at such an awful cost, the good
American was entitled to give his undivided attention to the great work
of molding and equipping the continent for human habitation, and
incidentally to the minor task of securing his share of the rewards. A
lively, even a frenzied, outburst of industrial, commercial, and
speculative activity followed hard upon the restoration of peace. This
activity and its effects have been the most important fact in American
life during the forty years which have supervened; and it has assumed
very different characteristics from those which it had assumed previous
to the War. We must now consider the circumstances, the consequences,
and the meaning of this economic revolution.

Although nobody in 1870 suspected it, the United States was entering
upon a new phase of its economic career; and the new economy was
bringing with it radical social changes. Even before the outbreak of the
Civil War the rich and fertile states of the Middle West had become well
populated. They had passed from an almost exclusively agricultural
economy to one which was much more largely urban and industrial. The
farms had become well-equipped; large cities were being built up;
factories of various kinds were being established; and most important of
all, the whole industrial organization of the country was being adjusted
to transportation by means of the railroad. An industrial community,
which was, comparatively speaking, well-organized and well-furnished
with machinery, was taking the place of the agricultural community of
1830-1840, which was incoherent and scattered and which lacked
everything except energy and opportunity. Such an increase of
organization, capital, and equipment necessarily modified the outlook
and interests of the people of the Middle West. While still retaining
many of their local traits, their point of view had been approaching in
certain respects that of the inhabitants of the East. They had ceased to
be pioneers.

During the two decades after the Civil War, the territory, which was
still in the early stage of agricultural development, was the first and
second tier of states west of the Mississippi River. Missouri, Iowa, and
Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, and finally the Dakotas were being opened
for settlement; but in their case the effect and symptoms of this
condition were not the same as they had been with the earlier pioneer
states. Their economy was from the beginning adjusted to the railroad;
and the railroad had made an essential difference. It worked in favor of
a more comprehensive and definite organization and a more complete
equipment. While the business interests of the new states were and still
are predominantly agricultural, the railroads had transformed the
occupation of farming. After 1870, the pioneer farmer was much less
dependent than he had been upon local conditions and markets, and upon
the unaided exertions of himself and his neighbors. He bought and sold
in the markets of the world. He needed more capital and more machinery.
He had to borrow money and make shrewd business calculations. From every
standpoint his economic environment had become more complicated and more
extended, and his success depended much more upon conditions which were
beyond his control. He never was a pioneer in the sense that the early
inhabitants of the Middle West and South had been pioneers; and he has
never exercised any corresponding influence upon the American national
temper. The pioneer had enjoyed his day, and his day was over. The
Jack-of-all-trades no longer possessed an important economic function.
The average farmer was, of course, still obliged to be many kinds of a
rough mechanic, but for the most part he was nothing more than a farmer.
Unskilled labor began to mean labor which was insignificant and badly
paid. Industrial economy demanded the expert with his high and special
standards of achievement. The railroads and factories could not be
financed and operated without the assistance of well-paid and
well-trained men, who could do one or two things remarkably well, and
who did not pretend to do much of anything else. These men had to retain
great flexibility and an easy adaptability of intelligence, because
American industry and commerce remained very quick in its movements. The
machinery which they handled was less permanent, and was intended to be
less permanent than the machinery which was considered economical in
Europe. But although they had to avoid routine and business rigidity on
the penalty of utter failure, still they belonged essentially to a class
of experts. Like all experts, they had to depend, not upon mere energy,
untutored enthusiasm, and good-will, but upon careful training and
single-minded devotion to a special task, and at the same time proper
provision had to be made for cooerdinating the results of this highly
specialized work. More complete organization necessarily accompanied
specialization. The expert became a part of a great industrial machine.
His individuality tended to disappear in his work. His interests became
those of a group. Imperative economic necessities began to classify the
individuals composing American society in the same way, if not to the
same extent, that they had been classified in Europe.

This was a result which had never entered into the calculations of the
pioneer Democrat. He had disliked specialization, because, as he
thought, it narrowed and impoverished the individual; and he distrusted
permanent and official forms of organization, because, as he thought,
they hampered the individual. His whole political, social, and economic
outlook embodied a society of energetic, optimistic, and prosperous
democrats, united by much the same interests, occupations, and point of
view. Each of these democrats was to be essentially an all-round man.
His conception of all-round manhood was somewhat limited; but it meant
at least a person who was expansive in feeling, who was enough of a
business man successfully to pursue his own interests, and enough of a
politician to prevent any infringement or perversion of his rights. He
never doubted that the desired combination of business man, politician,
and good fellow constituted an excellent ideal of democratic
individuality, that it was sufficiently realized in the average Western
American of the Jacksonian epoch, that it would continue to be the type
of admirable manhood, and that the good democrats embodying this type
would continue to merit and to obtain substantial and approximately
equal pecuniary rewards. Moreover, for a long time the vision remained
sufficiently true. The typical American democrat described by De
Tocqueville corresponded very well with the vision of the pioneer; and
he did not disappear during the succeeding generation. For many years
millions of Americans of much the same pattern were rewarded for their
democratic virtue in an approximately similar manner. Of course some
people were poor, and some people were rich; but there was no class of
the very rich, and the poverty of the poor was generally their own
fault. Opportunity knocked at the door of every man, and the poor man of
to-day was the prosperous householder of to-morrow. For a long time
American social and economic conditions were not merely fluid, but
consistent and homogeneous, and the vision of the pioneer was fulfilled.
Nevertheless, this condition was essentially transient. It contained
within itself the seeds of its own dissolution and transformation; and
this transformation made headway just as soon as, and just as far as,
economic conditions began to prefer the man who was capable of
specializing his work, and of organizing it with the work of his

The dominant note, consequently, of the pioneer period was an unformed
national consistency, reached by means of a natural community of feeling
and a general similarity of occupation and well-being. On the other
hand, the dominant note of the period from 1870 until the present day
has been the gradual disintegration of this early national consistency,
brought about by economic forces making for specialization and
organization in all practical affairs, for social classification, and
finally for greater individual distinction. Moreover, the tendency
towards specialization first began to undermine the very corner-stone of
the pioneer's democratic edifice. If private interest and public weal
were to be as harmonious as the pioneer assumed, every economic producer
must be a practical politician, and there must be no deep-lying division
between these primary activities. But the very first result of the
specializing tendency was to send the man of business, the politician,
and the lawyer off on separate tacks. Business interests became so
absorbing that they demanded all of a man's time and energy; and he was
obliged to neglect politics except in so far as politics affected
business. In this same way, the successful lawyers after the War were
less apt than formerly to become politicians and statesmen. They left
public affairs largely to the unsuccessful lawyers. Politics itself
became an occupation which made very exacting demands upon a man's time
and upon his conscience. Public service or military success were no
longer the best roads to public distinction. Men became renowned and
distinguished quite as much, if not more, for achievements in their
private and special occupations. Along with leadership of statesmen and
generals, the American people began to recognize that of financiers,
"captains of industry," corporation lawyers, political and labor
"bosses," and these gentlemen assumed extremely important parts in the
direction of American affairs. Officially, the new leaders were just
like any other American citizen. No titles could be conferred upon them,
and their position brought with it no necessary public responsibilities.
Actually, however, they exercised in many cases more influence upon
American social and political economy than did the official leaders.
They were an intrusion, into the traditional economic political and
social system, for which no provision had been made. Their special
interests, and the necessities of their special tasks, made their manner
of life different from that of other American citizens, and their
peculiar opportunities enabled them to appropriate an unusually large
share of the fruits of American economic development. Thus they
seriously impaired the social and economic homogeneity, which the
pioneer believed to be the essential quality of fruitful Americanism.



Before seeking to trace the consequences and the significance of this
specialized organization of American practical affairs, we must examine
its origin with some care. An exact and complete understanding thereof
will in itself afford an unmistakable hint of the way in which its
consequences are to be appraised, and wherever necessary, corrected. The
great and increasing influence of the new unofficial leaders has been
due not only to economic conditions and to individual initiative, but
to the nature of our political ideas and institutions. The traditional
American theory was that the individual should have a free hand. In so
far as he was subject to public regulation and control such control
should be exercised by local authorities, whereof the result would be a
happy combination of individual prosperity and public weal. But this
expectation, as we have seen, has proved to be erroneous. While it has,
indeed, resulted in individual prosperity, the individual who has reaped
most of the prosperity is not the average, but the special man; and
however the public may have benefited from the process, the benefit is
mixed with so many drawbacks that, even if it may not be wholly
condemned, it certainly cannot be wholly approved. The plain fact is
that the individual in freely and energetically pursuing his own private
purposes has not been the inevitable public benefactor assumed by the
traditional American interpretation of democracy. No doubt he has
incidentally accomplished, in the pursuit of his own aggrandizement,
certain manifest public benefits; but wherever public and private
advantages have conflicted, he has naturally preferred the latter. And
under our traditional political system there was, until recently, no
effective way of correcting his preference.

As long as the economic opportunities of American life consisted chiefly
in the appropriation and improvement of uncultivated land, the average
energetic man had no difficulty in obtaining his fair share of the
increasing American economic product; but the time came when such
opportunities, although still important, were dwarfed by other
opportunities, incident to the development of a more mature economic
system. These opportunities, which were, of course, connected with the
manufacturing, industrial, and technical development of the country,
demanded under American conditions a very special type of man--the man
who would bring to his task not merely energy, but unscrupulous
devotion, originality, daring, and in the course of time a large fund of
instructive experience. The early American industrial conditions
differed from those of Europe in that they were fluid, and as a result
of this instability, extremely precarious. Rapid changes in markets,
business methods, and industrial machinery made it very difficult to
build up a safe business. A manufacturer or a merchant could not secure
his business salvation, as in Europe, merely by the adoption of sound
conservative methods. The American business man had greater
opportunities and a freer hand than his European prototype; but he was
also beset by more severe, more unscrupulous, and more dangerous
competition. The industrious and thrifty farmer could be tolerably sure
of a modest competence, due partly to his own efforts, and partly to the
increased value of his land in a more populous community; but the
business man had no such security. In his case it was war to the knife.
He was presented with a choice between aggressive daring business
operations, and financial insignificance or ruin.

No doubt this situation was due as much to the temper of the American
business man as to his economic environment. American energy had been
consecrated to economic development. The business man in seeking to
realize his ambitions and purposes was checked neither by government
control nor social custom. He had nothing to do and nothing to consider
except his own business advancement and success. He was eager,
strenuous, and impatient. He liked the excitement and the risk of large
operations. The capital at his command was generally too small for the
safe and conservative conduct of his business; and he was consequently
obliged to be adventurous, or else to be left behind in the race. He
might well be earning enormous profits one year and skirting bankruptcy
the next. Under such a stress conservatism and caution were suicidal. It
was the instinct of self-preservation, as well as the spirit of business
adventure, which kept him constantly seeking for larger markets,
improved methods, or for some peculiar means of getting ahead of his
competitors. He had no fortress behind which he could hide and enjoy his
conquests. Surrounded as he was by aggressive enemies and undefended
frontiers, his best means of security lay in a policy of constant
innovation and expansion. Moreover, even after he had obtained the
bulwark of sufficient capital and more settled industrial surroundings,
he was under no temptation to quit and enjoy the spoils of his
conquests. The social, intellectual, or even the more vulgar pleasures,
afforded by leisure and wealth, could bring him no thrill, which was
anything like as intense as that derived from the exercise of his
business ability and power. He could not conquer except by virtue of a
strong, tenacious, adventurous, and unscrupulous will; and after he had
conquered, this will had him in complete possession. He had nothing to
do but to play the game to the end--even though his additional profits
were of no living use to him.

If, however, the fluid and fluctuating nature of American economic
conditions and the fierceness of American competitive methods turned
business into a state of dangerous and aggressive warfare, the steady
and enormous expansion of the American markets made the rewards of
victory correspondingly great. Not only was the population of the
country increasing at an enormous rate, but the demand for certain
necessary products, services, and commodities was increasing at a higher
rate than the population. The American people were still a most
homogeneous collection of human beings. They wanted very much the same
things; they wanted more of these things year after year; and they
immediately rewarded any cheapening of the product by buying it in much
larger quantities. The great business opportunities of American life
consisted, consequently, in supplying some popular or necessary article
or service at a cheaper price than that at which any one else could
furnish it; and the great effort of American business men was, of
course, to obtain some advantage over their competitors in producing
such an article or in supplying such a service. The best result of this
condition was a constant improvement in the mechanism of production.
Cheapness was found to depend largely upon the efficient use of
machinery, and the efficient use of machinery was found to depend upon
constant wear and quick replacement by a better machine. But while the
economic advantage of the exhausting use and the constant improvement of
machinery was the most important economic discovery of the American
business man, he was also encouraged by his surroundings to seek
economies in other and less legitimate ways. It was all very well to
multiply machines and make them more efficient, but similar improvements
were open to competitors. The great object was to obtain some advantage
which was denied to your competitors. Then the business man could not
only secure his own position, but utterly rout and annihilate his

At this point the railroads came to the assistance of the aggressive and
unscrupulous business man. They gave such men an advantage over their
competitors by granting them special rates; and inasmuch as this
practice has played a decisive part in American business development,
its effect and its meaning, frequently as they have been pointed out,
must be carefully traced.

The railroads themselves are, perhaps, the most perfect illustration of
the profits which accrue in a rapidly growing country from the
possession of certain advantages in supplying to the public an
indispensable service. They were not built, as in most European states,
under national supervision and regulation, or according to a general
plan which prevented unnecessary competition. Their routes and their
methods were due almost entirely to private enterprise and to local
economic necessities. They originated in local lines radiating from
large cities; and only very slowly did their organization come to
correspond with the great national routes of trade. The process of
building up the leading systems was in the beginning a process of
combining the local roads into important trunk lines. Such combinations
were enormously profitable, because the business of the consolidated
roads increased in a much larger proportion than did the cost of
financing end operating the larger mileage; and after the combinations
were made the owners of the consolidated road were precisely in the
position of men who had obtained a certain strategic advantage in
supplying a necessary service to their fellow-countrymen. Their
terminals, rights of way, and machinery could not be duplicated except
at an increased cost, and their owners were in a position necessarily to
benefit from the growth of the country in industry and population. No
doubt their economic position was in certain respects precarious. They
did not escape the necessity, to which other American business
enterprises had to submit, of fighting for a sufficient share of the
spoils. But in making the fight, they had acquired certain advantages
which, if they were intelligently used, would necessarily result in
victory; and as we all know, these advantages have proved to be
sufficient. The railroads have been the greatest single source of large
American fortunes, and the men who control the large railroad systems
are the most powerful and conspicuous American industrial leaders.

Important, however, as has been the direct effect of big railroad
systems on the industrial economy of the country, their indirect effects
have probably been even more important. In one way or another, they have
been the most effective of all agencies working for the larger
organization of American industries. Probably such an organization was
bound to have come in any event, because the standard economic needs of
millions of thrifty democrats could in the long run be most cheaply
satisfied by means of well-situated and fully equipped industrial plants
of the largest size; but the railroad both hastened this result and
determined its peculiar character. The population of the United States
is so scattered, its distances so huge, and its variations in
topographical level so great, that its industries would necessarily have
remained very local in character, as long as its system of
transportation depended chiefly upon waterways and highways. Some kind
of quick transportation across country was, consequently, an
indispensable condition of the national organization of American
industry and commerce. The railroad not only supplied this need, but
coming as it did pretty much at the beginning of our industrial
development, it largely modified and determined the character thereof.
By considerably increasing the area within which the products of any one
locality could be profitably sold, it worked naturally in favor of the
concentration of a few large factories in peculiarly favorable
locations; and this natural process was accelerated by the policy which
the larger companies adopted in the making of their rates. The rapid
growth of big producing establishments was forced, because of the
rebates granted to them by the railroads. Without such rebates the large
manufacturing corporation controlled by a few individuals might still
have come into existence; but these individuals would have been neither
as powerful as they now are, nor as opulent, nor as much subject to

It is peculiarly desirable to understand, consequently, just how these
rebates came to be granted. It was, apparently, contrary to the interest
of the railroad companies to cut their rates for the benefit of any one
class of customers; and it was, also, an illegal practice, which had to
be carried on by secret and underhand methods. Almost all the state laws
under which corporations engaged in transportation had been organized,
had defined railways, like highways, as public necessities. Such
corporations had usually been granted by the states the power to condemn
land,--and the delegation of such a power to a private company meant, of
course, that it owed certain responsibilities to the public as a common
carrier, among which the responsibility of not allowing special
privileges to any one customer was manifestly to be included. When the
railroad managers have been asked why they cut their published rates and
evaded the laws, they have always contended that they were forced to do
so; and whatever may be thought of the plea, it cannot be lightly set
aside. As we have seen, the trunk lines leading from Chicago to the
coast were the result of the consolidation of local roads. After the
consolidations had taken place, these companies began to compete
fiercely for through freight, and the rebates were an incident in this
competition. The trunk lines in the early years of their existence were
in the position of many other American business enterprises. For the
time being, they were more than competent to carry all the freight
offered at competitive points. Inasmuch as there was not enough to go
around, they fought mercilessly for what business there was. When a
large individual shipper was prepared to guarantee them a certain amount
of freight in return for special rates, they were obliged either to
grant the rates or to lose the business. Of course they submitted, and
defended their submission as a measure of self-preservation.

No great intelligence is required to detect in this situation the
evidence of a vicious circle. The absorption of Americans in business
affairs, and the free hand which the structure and ideals of American
life granted them, had made business competition a fierce and merciless
affair; while at the same time the fluid nature of American economic
conditions made success very precarious. Every shrewd and resolute man
would seek to secure himself against the dangers of this situation by
means of special advantages, and the most effective of all special
advantages would, of course, be special railroad rates. But a shipper
such as John D. Rockefeller could obtain special rates only because the
railroads were in a position similar to his own, and were fighting
strenuously for supremacy. The favored shipper and the railroad both
excused themselves on the ground of self-preservation, and sometimes
even claimed that it was just for a large shipper to obtain better rates
than a small one. This was all very well for the larger shipper and the
railroad, but in the meantime what became of the small shipper, whom Mr.
Rockefeller was enabled to annihilate by means of his contracts with the
railroad companies? The small shipper saw himself forced out of
business, because corporations to whom the state had granted special
privileges as common carriers, had a private interest in doing business
with his bigger, more daring, and unscrupulous competitors.

Of course no such result could have happened, if at any point in this
vicious circle of private interests, there had been asserted a dominant
public interest; and there are several points at which such an interest
might well have been intruded. The circle would have been broken, if,
for instance, the granting of illegal rebates had been effectively
prohibited; but as a matter of fact they could not be effectively
prohibited by the public authorities, to whom either the railroads or
the large shippers were technically responsible. A shipper of oil in
Cleveland, Ohio, would have a difficult time in protesting against
illegal discrimination on the part of a railroad conducting an
inter-state business and organized under the laws of New York. No doubt
he could appeal to the Federal government; but the Federal government
had been, for the time being, disqualified by many different causes from
effective interference. In the first place there was to be overcome the
conventional democratic prejudice against what was called
centralization. A tradition of local control over the machinery of
transit and transportation was dominant during the early period of
railroad construction. The fact that railways would finally become the
all-important vehicles of inter-state commerce was either overlooked or
considered unimportant. The general government did not interfere--except
when, as in the case of the Pacific lines, its interference and
assistance were solicited by private interests. For a long time the idea
that the Federal government had any general responsibility in respect to
the national transportation system was devoid of practical consequences.

In the end an Inter-state Commerce law was passed, in which the
presence of a national interest in respect to the American system of
transportation was recognized. But this law, like our tariff laws, was
framed for the benefit chiefly of a combination of local and special
interests; and it served little to advance any genuine national interest
in relation to the railroads. To be sure it did forbid rebates, but the
machinery for enforcing the prohibition was inefficient, and during
another twenty years the prohibition remained substantially a dead
letter. The provisions of the law forbidding rebates were in truth
merely a bit of legal hypocrisy. Rebates could not be openly defended;
but the business of the country was honeycombed with them, and the
majority of the shippers in whose interest the law was passed did not
want the prohibition enforced. Their influence at Washington was
sufficiently powerful to prevent the adoption of any effective measures
for the abatement of the evil. The Federal Inter-state Commerce
Commission, unlike the local authorities, would have been fully
competent to abolish rebates; but the plain truth was that the effective
public opinion in the business world either supported the evil or
connived at it. The private interests at stake were, for the time being,
too strong for the public interest. The whole American business
tradition was opposed to government interference with prevailing
business practices; and in view of this fact the responsibility for the
rebates cannot be fixed merely upon the railroads and the trusts. The
American system had licensed energetic and unscrupulous individual
aggrandizement as the best means of securing a public benefit; and
rebates were merely a flagrant instance of the extent to which public
opinion permitted the domination of private interests.

The failure of the Federal government to protect the public interest in
a matter over which the state governments had no effective control, has
greatly accelerated the organization of American industries on a
national scale, but for private and special purposes. Certain
individuals controlling certain corporations were enabled to obtain a
decided advantage in supplying certain services and products to the
enormously increasing American market; and once those individuals and
corporations had obtained dominant positions, it was in their interest
to strengthen one another's hands in every possible way. One big
corporation has as a rule preferred to do business with another big
corporation. They were all of them producing some standard commodity or
service, and it is part of the economical conduct of such businesses to
buy and sell so far as possible in large quantities and under long
contracts. Such contracts reduced to a comparatively low level the
necessary uncertainties of business. It enabled the managers of these
corporations to count upon a certain market for their product or a
certain cost for part of their raw material; and it must be remembered
that the chief object of this whole work of industrial organization was
to diminish the hazards of unregulated competition and to subject large
business operations to effective control. A conspicuous instance of the
effect of such interests and motives may be seen in the lease of the ore
lands belonging to the Great Northern Railroad to the United States
Steel Corporation. The railroad company owned the largest body of good
ore in the country outside of the control of the Steel Corporation, and
if these lands had been leased to many small companies, the ability of
the independent steel manufacturers to compete with the big steel
company would have been very much increased. But the Great Northern
Railroad Company found it simpler and more secure to do business with
one large than a number of small companies; and in this way the Steel
Corporation has obtained almost a monopoly of the raw material most
necessary to the production of finished steel. It will be understood,
consequently, how inevitably these big corporations strengthen one
another's hands; and it must be added that they had political as well as
economic motives for so doing. Although the big fellows sometimes
indulge in the luxury of fierce fighting, such fights are always the
prelude to still closer agreements. They are all embarked in the same
boat; and surrounded as they are by an increasing amount of enmity,
provoked by their aggrandizement, they have every reason to lend one
another constant and effective support.

There may be discerned in this peculiar organization of American
industry an entangling alliance between a wholesome and a baleful
tendency. The purpose which prompted men like John D. Rockefeller to
escape from the savage warfare in which so many American business men
were engaged, was in itself a justifiable and ameliorating purpose.
Competition in American business was insufficiently moderated either by
the state or by the prevailing temper of American life. No sensible and
resourceful man will submit to such a precarious existence without
making some attempt to escape from it; and if the means which Mr.
Rockefeller and others took to secure themselves served to make the
business lives of their competitors still more precarious, such a result
was only the expiation which American business men were obliged to pay
for their own excesses. The concentrated leadership, the partial
control, the thorough organization thereby effected, was not necessarily
a bad thing. It was in some respects a decidedly good thing, because
leadership of any kind has certain intrinsic advantages. The trusts have
certainly succeeded in reducing the amount of waste which was
necessitated by the earlier condition of wholly unregulated competition.
The competitive methods of nature have been, and still are, within
limits indispensable; but the whole effort of civilization has been to
reduce the area within which they are desirably effective; and it is
entirely possible that in the end the American system of industrial
organization will constitute a genuine advance in industrial economy.
Large corporations, which can afford the best machinery; which control
abundant capital, and which can plan with scrupulous economy all the
details of producing and selling an important product or service, are
actually able to reduce the cost of production to a minimum; and in the
cases of certain American corporations such results have actually been
achieved. The new organization of American industry has created an
economic mechanism which is capable of being wonderfully and
indefinitely serviceable to the American people.

On the other hand, its serviceability is much diminished by the special
opportunities it gives a few individuals. These opportunities do not
amount in any case to a monopoly, but they do amount to a species of
economic privilege which enable them to wring profits from the
increasing American market disproportionate to the value of their
economic services. What is still more unfortunate, however, is the
equivocal position of these big corporations in respect to the laws
under which they are organized, and in respect to the public
authorities which are supposed to control them. Many of the large
railway and industrial corporations have reached their present size
partly by an evasion or a defiance of the law. Their organizers took
advantage of the American system of local self-government and the
American disposition to reduce the functions of the Federal government
to a minimum--they took advantage of these legal conditions and
political ideas to organize an industrial machinery which cannot be
effectively reached by local statutes and officials. The favorable
corporation laws of some states have been used as a means of preying
upon the whole country; and the unfavorable corporation laws of other
states have been practically nullified. The big corporations have proved
to be too big and powerful for the laws and officials to which the
American political system has subjected them; and their equivocal legal
position has resulted in the corruption of American public life and in
the serious deterioration of our system of local government.

The net result of the industrial expansion of the United States since
the Civil War has been the establishment in the heart of the American
economic and social system of certain glaring inequalities of condition
and power. The greater American railroad and industrial corporations
control resources and conduct operations on a scale unprecedented in the
economic history of the world. The great American industrial leaders
have accumulated fortunes for which there is also no precedent on the
part of men who exercise no official political power. These inequalities
are the result of the organization of American industry on almost a
national scale,--an organization which was brought about as a means of
escape from the intolerable evils of unregulated competition. Every
aspect of American business methods has helped to make them inevitable,
and the responsibility for them must be distributed over the whole
business and social fabric. But in spite of the fact that they have
originated as the inevitable result of American business methods and
political ideas and institutions, they constitute a serious problem for
a democracy to face; and this problem has many different aspects. Its
most serious aspect is constituted by the sheer size of the resulting
inequalities. The rich men and the big corporations have become too
wealthy and powerful for their official standing in American life. They
have not obeyed the laws. They have attempted to control the official
makers, administrators, and expounders of the law. They have done little
to allay and much to excite the resentment and suspicion. In short,
while their work has been constructive from an economic and industrial
standpoint, it has made for political corruption and social
disintegration. Children, as they are, of the traditional American
individualistic institutions, ideas, and practices, they have turned on
their parents and dealt them an ugly wound. Either these economic
monsters will destroy the system of ideas, institutions, and practices
out of which they have issued or else be destroyed by them.



The corporations were able to secure and to exercise an excessive and
corrupt influence on legislation, because their aggrandizement coincided
with a process of deterioration in our local political institutions. We
have seen that the stress of economic competition had specialized the
American business man and made him almost exclusively preoccupied with
the advancement of his own private interests; and one of the first
results of this specialization was an alteration in his attitude towards
the political welfare of his country. Not only did he no longer give as
much time to politics as he formerly did, but as his business increased
in size and scope, he found his own interests by way of conflicting at
many points with the laws of his country and with its well-being. He did
not take this conflict very seriously. He was still reflected in the
mirror of his own mind as a patriotic and a public-spirited citizen; but
at the same time his ambition was to conquer, and he did not scruple to
sacrifice both the law and the public weal to his own prosperity. All
unknowingly he began to testify to a growing and a decisive division
between the two primary interests of American life,--between the
interest of the individual business man and the interest of the body
politic; and he became a living refutation of the amiable theories of
the Jacksonian Democrat that the two must substantially coincide. The
business man had become merely a business man, and the conditions which
had made him less of a politician had also had its effect upon the men
whose business was that of politics. Just as business had become
specialized and organized, so politics also became subject to
specialization and organization. The appearance of the "Captain of
Industry" was almost coincident with the appearance of the "Boss."

There has been a disposition to treat the "Boss" chiefly as the
political creature of the corrupt corporation; and it is undoubtedly
true that one of the most important functions of the municipal and state
"Bosses" has been that of conducting negotiations with the corporations.
But to consider the specialized organization of our local politics as
the direct result of specialized organization of American business is
wholly to misunderstand its significance. The two processes are the
parallel effects of the same conditions and ideas working in different
fields. Business efficiency under the conditions prevailing in our
political and economic fabric demanded the "Captain of Industry."
Political efficiency under our system of local government demanded the
"Boss." The latter is an independent power who has his own special
reasons for existence. He put in an embryonic appearance long before the
large corporations had obtained anything like their existing power in
American politics; and he will survive in some form their reduction to
political insignificance. He has been a genuine and within limits a
useful product of the American democracy; and it would be fatal either
to undervalue or to misunderstand him.

The American system of local self-government encouraged the creation of
the political "Boss," because it required such an enormous amount of
political business. Some one was needed to transact this business, and
the professional politician was developed to supply the need. There was
no reason why such a need should have existed; because the amount of
political business incident to state government could have been very
much economized by a simpler method of organization. But American
democratic ideas during the years when the state governments took form
were wholly opposed to simplicity of organization. The state
constitutions adopted during the period of Jacksonian supremacy seem
designed to make local government costly in time and energy and
irresponsible in action; and they provided the legal scenery in the
midst of which the professional politician became the only effective

The state constitutions were all very much influenced by the Federal
instrument, but in the copies many attempts were made to improve upon
the model. The Democracy had come to believe that the Federal
Constitution tended to encourage independence and even special
efficiency on the part of Federal officials; and it proposed to correct
such an erroneous tendency in the more thoroughly democratic state
governments. No attempt was, indeed, made to deprive the executive and
the judicial officials of independence by making them the creatures of
the legislative branch; for such a change, although conforming to
earlier democratic ideas, would have looked in the direction of a
concentration of responsibility. The far more insidious course was
adopted of keeping the executive, the judicial, and the legislative
branches of the government technically separate, while at the same time
depriving all three of any genuine independence and efficiency. The term
of the executive, for instance, was not allowed to exceed one or two
years. The importance of his functions was diminished. His power of
appointment was curtailed. Many of his most important executive
assistants were elected by popular vote and made independent of him. In
some few instances he was even deprived of a qualified veto upon
legislation. But the legislature itself was not treated much better.
Instead of deriving its power from a short constitution which conferred
upon it full legislative responsibilities and powers, the tendency has
been to incorporate an enormous mass of special and detailed legislation
in the fundamental law, and so to diminish indefinitely the power of the
legislative branch either to be useful or dangerous. Finally state
judges instead of being appointed for life were usually elected for
limited terms, so that they could scarcely avoid being more "amenable to
public opinion." The tendency in every respect was to multiply elections
and elective officials, divide responsibility and power, and destroy
independence. The more "democratic" these constitutions became, the more
clearly the Democracy showed its disposition to distrust its own
representatives, and to deprive them of any chance of being genuinely

The object of the Jacksonion Democrat in framing constitutions of this
kind was to keep political power in the hands of the "plain people," and
to forestall the domination of administrative and legislative
specialists. The effect was precisely the opposite. They afforded the
political specialist a wonderful opportunity. The ordinary American
could not pretend to give as much time to politics as the smooth
operation of this complicated machine demanded; and little by little
there emerged in different parts of the country a class of politicians
who spent all their time in nominating and electing candidates to these
numerous offices. The officials so elected, instead of being responsible
to the people, were responsible to the men to whom they owed their
offices; and their own individual official power was usually so small
that they could not put what little independence they possessed to any
good use. As a matter of fact, they used their official powers chiefly
for the benefit of their creators. They appointed to office the men whom
the "Bosses" selected. They passed the measures which the machine
demanded. In this way the professional politician gradually obtained a
stock of political goods wherewith to maintain and increase his power.
Reenforced by the introduction of the spoils system first into the state
and then into the Federal civil services, a process of local political
organization began after 1830 to make rapid headway. Local leaders
appeared in different parts of the country who little by little relieved
the farmer and the business man of the cares and preoccupations of
government. In the beginning the most efficient of these politicians
were usually Jacksonian Democrats, and they ruled both in the name of
the people and by virtue of a sturdy popular following. They gradually
increased in power, until in the years succeeding the war they became
the dominant influence in local American politics, and had won the right
to be called something which they would never have dared to call
themselves, viz. a governing class.

While the local "Boss" nearly always belonged to the political party
dominant in his neighborhood, so that he could in ordinary elections
depend upon the regular party vote, still the real source of his power
consisted in a band of personal retainers; and the means by which such
groups were collected and held together contain a curious mixture of
corruption and democracy. In the first place the local leader had to be
a "good fellow" who lived in the midst of his followers and knew all
about them. His influence was entirely dependent upon personal
kindliness, loyalty, and good-comradeship. He was socially the playmate
and the equal of his followers, and the relations among them were
characterized by many admirable qualities. The group was within limits a
genuine example of social democracy, and was founded on mutual
understanding, good-will, and assistance. The leader used his official
and unofficial power to obtain jobs for his followers. He succored them
when in need; he sometimes protected them against the invidious activity
of the police or the prosecuting attorneys; he provided excursions and
picnics for them in hot weather; he tied them to himself by a thousand
bonds of interest and association; he organized them into a clan, who
supported him blindly at elections in return for a deal of personal
kindliness and a multitude of small services; he became their genuine
representative, whether official or not, because he represented their
most vital interests and satisfied their most pressing and intimate

The general method of political organization indicated above was
perfected in the two decades succeeding the Civil War. The American
democracy was divided politically into a multitude of small groups,
organized chiefly for the purpose of securing the local and individual
interests of these groups and their leaders, and supported by local and
personal feeling, political patronage, and petty "graft." These groups
were associated with both parties, and merely made the use of partisan
ties and cries to secure the cooeperation of more disinterested voters.
The result was that so far as American political representation was
merely local, it was generally corrupt, and it was always selfish. The
leader's power depended absolutely on an appeal to the individual,
neighborhood, and class interests of his followers. They were the
"people"; he was the popular tribune. He could not retain his power for
a month, in case he failed to subordinate every larger interest to the
flattery, cajolery, and nourishment of his local clan. Thus the local
representative system was poisoned at its source. The alderman, the
assemblyman, or the congressman, even if he were an honest man,
represented little more than the political powers controlling his
district; and to be disinterested in local politics was usually
equivalent to being indifferent.

Although these local clans were the basis of American political
organization, they were not, of course, its ultimate fruit. In many of
the cities, large and small, and in some of the states the leaders of
the local groups were subordinated to one of their number who became the
real "Boss" and who strengthened the district organizations by using for
their benefit the municipal, state, and Federal patronage. The relation
of the municipal or state "Boss" to the district leaders was similar to
the relation which the district leader bore to his more important
retainers. The "Boss" first obtained his primacy by means of diplomatic
skill or force of character; and his ability to retain it depended upon
his ability to satisfy the demands of the district leaders for
patronage, while at the same time leading the organization to victory in
the local elections. His special duties as "Boss" required personal
prestige, strength of will, power of persuasive talking, good judgment
of men, loyalty to his promises and his followers, and a complete lack
of scruple. Unlike the district leader, however, the municipal "Boss"
has tended to become a secretive and somewhat lonely person, who carried
on his business behind closed doors, and on whom was visited the odium
incurred by this whole system of political organization. The district
leader either does not incur or is less affected by this odium, because
his social status is precisely that of his followers. The "Boss," on the
other hand, by this wealth and public position would naturally be an
important member of the society in which he lives, whereas as a matter
of fact he has come to be ostracized because of the source of his power
and wealth. His leadership over-reached the district clan, which was
real social basis; and the consequence was that the "Boss" became, to
all appearances, a very unpopular man in the democracy which he ruled.

His secretiveness and his unpopularity point to one of the most
important functions of the municipal and state "Bosses," to which as yet
only incidental reference has been made. The "Boss" became the man who
negotiated with the corporations, and through whom they obtained what
they wanted. We have already seen that the large corporation,
particularly those owning railroad and municipal franchises, have found
that the purchase of a certain amount of political power was a necessary
consequence of their dubious legal position. A traffic of this kind was
not one, of course, to which many people could be admitted. It must be
transmitted in secret, and by people who possessed full authority. An
agreement to secure certain franchises or certain needed legislation in
return for certain personal or party favors was not an agreement which
could be made between a board of directors and a group of district
leaders. If a large number of people were familiar with the details of
such negotiations, something more than a hint thereof would be sure to
leak out; and unquestionably the fact that a traffic of this kind was
part of the political game had much to do with the ability of the
municipal or state "Boss" to obtain and to keep his power. The profits
not only enabled him to increase party funds and to line his own
pockets, but it also furnished him with a useful and abundant source of
patronage. He could get positions for the political henchmen of his
district leaders, not only with the local and state governments, but
with the corporations. Thus every "Boss," even those whose influence did
not extend beyond an election district, was more or less completely
identified with the corporations who occupied within his bailiwick any
important relation to the state.

This alliance between the political machines and the big
corporations--particularly those who operate railroads or control
municipal franchises--was an alliance between two independent and
cooerdinate powers in the kingdom of American practical affairs. The
political "Boss" did not create the industrial leader for his own good
purposes. Neither did the industrial leader create the machine and its
"Boss," although he has done much to confirm the latter's influence.
Each of them saw an opportunity to turn to his own account the
individualistic "freedom" of American politics and industry. Each of
them was enabled by the character of our political traditions to obtain
an amount of power which the originators of those political ideas never
anticipated, and which, if not illegal, was entirely outside the law.
It so happened that the kind of power which each obtained was very
useful to the other. A corporation which derived its profits from public
franchises, or from a business transacted in many different states,
found the purchase of a local or state machine well within its means and
well according to its interests. The professional politicians who had
embarked in politics as a business and who were making what they could
out of it for themselves and their followers, could not resist this
unexpected and lucrative addition to their market. But it must be
remembered that the alliance was founded on interest rather than
association, on mutual agreement rather than on any effective
subordination one to another. A certain change in conditions might
easily make their separate interests diverge, and abstract all the
profits from their traffic. If anything happened, for instance, to make
inter-state railroad corporations less dependent on the state
governments, they would no longer need the expense of subsidizing the
state machines. There are signs at the present time that these interests
are diverging, and that such alliances will be less dangerous in the
future than they have been in the past. But even if the alliance is
broken, the peculiar unofficial organization of American industry and
politics will persist, and will constitute, both in its consequences and
its significance, two of our most important national problems.

It would be as grave a mistake, however, absolutely to condemn this
process of political organization as it would absolutely to condemn the
process of industrial organization. The huge corporation and the
political machine were both created to satisfy a real and a permanent
need--the needs of specialized leadership and associated action in these
two primary American activities. That in both of these cases the actual
method of organization has threatened vital public interests, and even
the very future of democracy has been due chiefly to the disregard by
the official American political system of the necessity and the
consequences of specialized leadership and associated action. The
political system was based on the assumption that the individualism it
encouraged could be persuaded merely by the power of words to respect
the public interest, that public officials could be deprived of
independence and authority for the real benefit of the "plain people,"
and that the "plain people" would ask nothing from the government but
their legal rights. These assumptions were all erroneous; and when
associated action and specialized leadership became necessary in local
American politics, the leaders and their machine took advantage of the
defective official system to build up an unofficial system, better
suited to actual popular needs. The "people" wanted the government to do
something for them, and the politicians made their living and served
their country by satisfying the want. To be sure, the "people" they
benefited were a small minority of the whole population whose interests
were far from being the public interest; but it was none the less
natural that the people, whoever they were, should want the government
to do more for them than to guarantee certain legal rights, and it was
inevitable that they should select leaders who could satisfy their
positive, if selfish, needs.

The consequence has been, however, a separation of actual political
power from official political responsibility. The public officers are
still technically responsible for the good government of the states,
even if, as individuals, they have not been granted the necessary
authority effectively to perform their task. But their actual power is
even smaller than their official authority. They are almost completely
controlled by the machine which secures their election or appointment.
The leader or leaders of that machine are the rulers of the community,
even though they occupy no offices and cannot be held in any way
publicly responsible. Here, again, as in the case of the
multi-millionaire, we have an example of a dangerous inequality in the
distribution of power, and one which tends to maintain and perpetuate
itself. The professional politician is frequently beaten and is being
vigorously fought; but he himself understands how necessary he is under
the existing local political organization, and how difficult it will be
to dislodge him. Beaten though he be again and again, he constantly
recovers his influence, because he is performing a necessary political
task and because he is genuinely representative of the needs of his
followers. Organizations such as Tammany in New York City are founded on
a deeply rooted political tradition, a group of popular ideas,
prejudices, and interests, and a species of genuine democratic
association which are a guarantee of a long and tenacious life. They
will survive much of the reforming machinery which is being created for
their extirpation.



One other decisive instance of this specialized organization of American
activity remains to be considered--that of the labor unions. The power
which the unions have obtained in certain industrial centers and the
tightness of their organization would have seemed anomalous to the good
Jacksonian Democrat. From his point of view the whole American democracy
was a kind of labor union whose political constitution provided for a
substantially equal division of the products of labor; and if the United
States had remained as much of an agricultural community as it was in
1830, the Jacksonian system would have preserved a much higher degree of

Except in the case of certain local Granger and Populist movements, the
American farmers have never felt the necessity of organization to
advance either their economic or their political interests. But when the
mechanic or the day-laborer gathered into the cities, he soon discovered
that life in a democratic state by no means deprived him of special
class interests. No doubt he was at worst paid better than his European
analogues, because the demand for labor in a new country was continually
outrunning the supply; but on occasions he was, like his employer,
threatened with merciless competition. The large and continuous stream
of foreign immigrants, whose standards of living were in the beginning
lower than those which prevailed in this country, were, particularly in
hard times, a constant menace not merely to his advancement, but to the
stability of his economic situation; and he began to organize partly for
the purpose of protecting himself against such competition. During the
past thirty years the work of organization has made enormous strides;
and it has been much accelerated by the increasing industrial power of
huge corporations. The mechanic and the laborer have come to believe
that they must meet organization with organization, and discipline with
discipline. Their object in forming trade associations has been
militant. Their purpose has been to conquer a larger share of the
economic product by aggressive associated action.

They have been very successful in accomplishing their object. In spite
of the flood of alien immigration the American laborer has been able to
earn an almost constantly increasing wage, and he devoutly thinks that
his unions have been the chief agency of his stronger economic position.
He believes in unionism, consequently, as he believes in nothing else.
He is, indeed, far more aggressively preoccupied with his class, as
contrasted with his individual interests, than are his employers. He has
no respect for the traditional American individualism as applied to his
own social and economic standing. Whenever he has had the power, he has
suppressed competition as ruthlessly as have his employers. Every kind
of contumelious reproach is heaped on the heads of the working men who
dare to replace him when he strikes; and he does not scruple to use
under such conditions weapons more convincing than the most opprobrious
epithets. His own personality is merged in that of the union. No
individual has any rights as opposed to the interests of the union. He
fully believes, of course, in competition among employers, just as the
employers are extremely enthusiastic over the individual liberty of the
working man. But in his own trade he has no use for individuality of any
kind. The union is to be composed of so many equal units who will work
the same number of hours for the some wages, and no one of whom is to
receive more pay even for more work. The unionist, that is, has come to
depend upon his union for that material prosperity and advancement
which, according to the American tradition, was to be the inevitable
result of American political ideas and institutions. His attachment to
his union has come to be the most important attachment of his life--more
important in most cases than his attachment to the American ideal and to
the national interest.

Some of the labor unions, like some of the corporations, have taken
advantage of the infirmities of local and state governments to become
arrogant and lawless. On the occasion of a great strike the strikers are
often just as disorderly as they are permitted to be by the local
police. When the police prevent them from resisting the employment of
strike-breakers by force, they apparently believe that the political
system of the country has been pressed into the service of their
enemies; and they begin to wonder whether it will not be necessary for
them to control such an inimical political organization. The average
union laborer, even though he might hesitate himself to assault a
"scab," warmly sympathizes with such assaults, and believes that in the
existing state of industrial warfare they are morally justifiable. In
these and in other respects he places his allegiance to his union and to
his class above his allegiance to his state and to his country. He
becomes in the interests of his organization a bad citizen, and at times
an inhuman animal, who is ready to maim or even to kill another man and
for the supposed benefit of himself and his fellows.

The most serious danger to the American democratic future which may
issue from aggressive and unscrupulous unionism consists in the state of
mind of which mob-violence is only one expression. The militant
unionists are beginning to talk and believe as if they were at war with
the existing social and political order--as if the American political
system was as inimical to their interests as would be that of any
European monarchy or aristocracy. The idea is being systematically
propagated that the American government is one which favors the
millionaire rather than the wage-earner; and the facts which either
superficially or really support this view are sufficiently numerous to
win for it an apparently increasing number of adherents. The union
laborer is tending to become suspicious, not merely of his employer, but
of the constitution of American society. His morals are becoming those
of men engaged in a struggle for life. The manifestations of this state
of mind in notion are not very numerous, although on many occasions they
have worn a sufficiently sinister aspect. But they are numerous enough
to demand serious attention, for the literature popular among the
unionists is a literature, not merely of discontent, but sometimes of

Whether this aggressive unionism will ever become popular enough to
endanger the foundations of the American political and social order, I
shall not pretend to predict. The practical dangers resulting from it at
any one time are largely neutralized by the mere size of the country and
its extremely complicated social and industrial economy. The menace it
contains to the nation as a whole can hardly become very critical as
long as so large a proportion of the American voters are land-owning
farmers. But while the general national well-being seems sufficiently
protected for the present against the aggressive assertion of the class
interests of the unionists, the legal public interest of particular
states and cities cannot be considered as anywhere near so secure; and
in any event the existence of aggressive discontent on that part of the
unionists must constitute a serious problem for the American legislator
and statesman. Is there any ground for such aggressive discontent? How
has it come to pass that the American political system, which was
designed to guarantee the welfare and prosperity of the people, is the
subject of such violent popular suspicion? Can these suspicions be
allayed merely by curbing the somewhat excessive opportunities of the
rich man and by the diminution of his influence upon the government? Or
does the discontent indicate the existence of more radical economic
evils or the necessity of more radical economic reforms?

However the foregoing questions ought to be answered, there can be no
doubt as to the nature of the answers, proposed by the unionists
themselves. The unionist leaders frequently offer verbal homage to the
great American principle of equal rights, but what they really demand is
the abandonment of that principle. What they want is an economic and
political order which will discriminate in favor of union labor and
against non-union labor; and they want it on the ground that the unions
have proved to be the most effective agency on behalf of economic and
social amelioration of the wage-earner. The unions, that is, are helping
most effectively to accomplish the task, traditionally attributed to the
American democratic political system--the task of raising the general
standard of living; and the unionists claim that they deserve on this
ground recognition by the state and active encouragement. Obviously,
however, such encouragement could not go very far without violating both
the Federal and many state constitutions--the result being that there is
a profound antagonism between our existing political system and what the
unionists consider to be a perfectly fair demand. Like all good
Americans, while verbally asking for nothing but equal rights, they
interpret the phrase so that equal rights become equivalent to special

Of all the hard blows which the course of American political and
economic development has dealt the traditional system of political ideas
and institutions, perhaps the hardest is this demand for discrimination
on behalf of union labor. It means that the more intelligent and
progressive American workingmen are coming to believe that the American
political and economic organization does not sufficiently secure the
material improvement of the wage-earner. This conviction may be to a
large extent erroneous. Certain it is that the wages of unorganized farm
laborers have been increasing as rapidly during the past thirty years as
have the wages of the organized mechanics. But whether erroneous or not,
it is widespread and deep-rooted; and whatever danger it possesses is
derived from the fact that it affords to a substantially revolutionary
purpose a large and increasing popular following. The other instances of
organization for special purposes which have been remarked, have
superficially, at least, been making for conservatism. The millionaire
and the professional politician want above all things to be let alone,
and to be allowed to enjoy the benefit of their conquests. But the labor
organizations cannot exercise the power necessary in their opinion to
their interests without certain radical changes in the political and
economic order; and inasmuch as their power is likely to increase rather
than diminish, the American people are confronted with the prospect of
persistent, unscrupulous, and increasing agitation on behalf of an
economic and political reorganization in favor of one class of citizens.

The large corporations and the unions occupy in certain respects a
similar relation to the American political system. Their advocates both
believe in associated action for themselves and in competition for their
adversaries. They both demand governmental protection and recognition,
but resent the notion of efficient governmental regulation. They have
both reached their existing power, partly because of the weakness of the
state governments, to which they are legally subject, and they both are
opposed to any interference by the Federal government--except
exclusively on their own behalf. Yet they both have become so very
powerful that they are frequently too strong for the state governments,
and in different ways they both traffic for their own benefit with the
politicians, who so often control those governments. Here, of course,
the parallelism ends and the divergence begins. The corporations have
apparently the best of the situation because existing institutions are
more favorable to the interests of the corporations than to the
interests of the unionists; but on the other hand, the unions have the
immense advantage of a great and increasing numerical strength. They are
beginning to use the suffrage to promote a class interest, though how
far they will travel on this perilous path remains doubtful. In any
event, it is obvious that the development in this country of two such
powerful and unscrupulous and well-organized special interests has
created a condition which the founders of the Republic never
anticipated, and which demands as a counterpoise a more effective body
of national opinion, and a more powerful organization of the national



The corporation, the politician, and the union laborer are all
illustrations of the organization of men representing fundamental
interests for special purposes. The specialization of American society
has not, however, stopped with its specialized organization. A similar
process has been taking place in the different professions, arts, and
trades; and of these much the most important is the gradual
transformation of the function of the lawyer in the American political
system. He no longer either performs the same office or occupies the
same place in the public mind as he did before the Civil War; and the
nature and meaning of this change cannot be understood without some
preliminary consideration of the important part which American lawyers
have played in American political history.

The importance of that part is both considerable and peculiar--as is the
debt of gratitude which the American people owe to American lawyers.
They founded the Republic, and they have always governed it. Some few
generals, and even one colonel, have been elected to the Presidency of
the United States; and occasionally business men of one kind or another
have prevailed in local politics; but really important political action
in our country has almost always been taken under the influence of
lawyers. On the whole, American laws have been made by lawyers; they
have been executed by lawyers; and, of course, they have been expounded
by lawyers. Their predominance has been practically complete; and so far
as I know, it has been unprecedented. No other great people, either in
classic, mediaeval, or modern times, has ever allowed such a professional
monopoly of governmental functions. Certain religious bodies have
submitted for a while to the dominion of ecclesiastical lawyers; but the
lawyer has rarely been allowed to interfere either in the executive or
the legislative branches of the government. The lawyer phrased the laws
and he expounded them for the benefit of litigants. The construction
which he has placed upon bodies of customary law, particularly in
England, has sometimes been equivalent to the most permanent and
fruitful legislation. But the people responsible for the government of
European countries have rarely been trained lawyers, whereas American
statesmen, untrained in the law, are palpable exceptions. This dominion
of lawyers is so defiant of precedent that it must be due to certain
novel and peremptory American conditions.

The American would claim, of course, that the unprecedented prominence
of the lawyer in American politics is to be explained on the ground that
the American government is a government by law. The lawyer is
necessarily of subordinate importance in any political system tending
towards absolutism. He is even of subordinate importance in a liberal
system such as that of Great Britain, where Crown and Parliament, acting
together, have the power to enact any desired legislation. The Federal
Constitution, on the other hand, by establishing the Supreme Court as
the interpreter of the Fundamental Law, and as a separate and
independent department of the government, really made the American
lawyer responsible for the future of the country. In so far as the
Constitution continues to prevail, the Supreme Court becomes the final
arbiter of the destinies of the United States. Whenever its action can
be legally invoked, it can, if necessary, declare the will of either or
both the President and Congress of no effect; and inasmuch as almost
every important question of public policy raises corresponding questions
of Constitutional interpretation, its possible or actual influence
dominates American political discussion. Thus the lawyer, when
consecrated as Justice of the Supreme Court, has become the High Priest
of our political faith. He sits in the sanctuary and guards the sacred
rights which have been enshrined in the ark of the Constitution.

The importance of lawyers as legislators and executives in the actual
work of American government has been an indirect consequence of the
peculiar function of the Supreme Court in the American political system.
The state constitutions confer a corresponding function on the highest
state courts, although they make no similar provision for the
independence of the state judiciary. The whole business of American
government is so entangled in a network of legal conditions that a
training in the law is the beet education which an American public man
can receive. The first question asked of any important legislative
project, whether state or Federal, concerns its constitutionality; and
the question of its wisdom is necessarily subordinate to these
fundamental legal considerations. The statesman, who is not a lawyer,
suffers under many disadvantages--not the least of which is the
suspicion wherewith he is regarded by his legal fellow-statesmen. When
they talk about a government by law, they really mean a government by
lawyers; and they are by way of believing that government by anybody but
lawyers is really unsafe.

The Constitution bestowed upon the American lawyer a constructive
political function; and this function has been confirmed and even
enlarged by American political custom and practice. The work of finally
interpreting the Federal Constitution has rarely been either conceived
or executed in a merely negative spirit. The construction, which
successive generations of Supreme Court Justices have placed upon the
instrument, has tended to enlarge its scope, and make it a legal
garment, which was being better cut to fit the American political and
economic organism. In its original form, and to a certain extent in its
present form, the Constitution was in many respects an ambiguous
document which might have been interpreted along several different
lines; and the Supreme Court in its official expositions has been
influenced by other than strictly legal and verbal reasons--by
considerations of public welfare or by general political ideas. But such
constructive interpretations have been most cautiously and discreetly
admitted. In proclaiming them, the Supreme Court has usually represented
a substantial consensus of the better legal opinion of the time; and
constructions of this kind are accepted and confirmed only when any
particular decision is the expression of some permanent advance or
achievement in political thinking by the American lawyer. It becomes
consequently of the utmost importance that American lawyers should
really represent the current of national political opinion. The Supreme
Court has been, on the whole, one of the great successes of the American
political system, because the lawyers, whom it represented, were
themselves representative of the ideas and interests of the bulk of
their fellow-countrymen; and if for any reason they become less
representative, a dangerous division would be created between the body
of American public opinion and its official and final legal expositors.
If the lawyers have any reason to misinterpret a serious political
problem, the difficulty of dealing therewith is much increased, because
in addition to the ordinary risks of political therapeutics there will
be added that of a false diagnosis by the family doctor. The adequacy of
the lawyers' training, the disinterestedness of their political motives,
the fairness of their mental outlook, and the closeness of their contact
with the national public opinion--all become matters of grave public

It can be fairly asserted that the qualifications of the American lawyer
for his traditional task as the official interpreter and guide of
American constitutional democracy have been considerably impaired.
Whatever his qualifications have been for the task (and they have,
perhaps, been over-estimated) they are no longer as substantial as they
were. Not only has the average lawyer become a less representative
citizen, but a strictly legal training has become a less desirable
preparation for the candid consideration of contemporary political

Since 1870 the lawyer has been traveling in the same path as the
business man and the politician. He has tended to become a professional
specialist, and to give all his time to his specialty. The greatest and
most successful American lawyers no longer become legislators and
statesmen as they did in the time of Daniel Webster. They no longer
obtain the experience of men and affairs which an active political life
brings with it. Their professional practice, whenever they are
successful, is so remunerative and so exacting that they cannot afford
either the time or the money which a political career demands. The most
eminent American lawyers usually remain lawyers all their lives; and if
they abandon private practice at all, it is generally for the purpose of
taking a seat on the Bench. Like nearly all other Americans they have
found rigid specialization a condition of success.

A considerable proportion of our legislators and executives continue to
be lawyers, but the difference is that now they are more likely to be
less successful lawyers. Knowledge of the law and a legal habit of mind
still have a great practical value in political work; and the
professional politicians, who are themselves rarely men of legal
training, need the services of lawyers whose legal methods are not
attenuated by scruples. Lawyers of this class occupy the same relation
to the local political "Bosses" as the European lawyer used to occupy in
the court of the absolute monarch. He phrases the legislation which the
ruler decides to be of private or public benefit; and he acts frequently
as his employer's official mouthpiece and special pleader.

No doubt many excellent and even eminent lawyers continue to play an
important and an honorable part in American politics. Mr. Elihu Root is
a conspicuous example of a lawyer, who has sacrificed a most lucrative
private practice for the purpose of giving his country the benefit of
his great abilities. Mr. Taft was, of course, a lawyer before he was an
administrator, though he had made no professional success corresponding
to that of Mr. Root. Mr. Hughes, also, was a successful lawyer. The
reform movement has brought into prominence many public-spirited
lawyers, who, either as attorney-generals or as district attorneys, have
sought vigorously to enforce the law and punish its violators. The
lawyers, like every class of business and professional men, have felt
the influence of the reforming ideas, which have become so conspicuous
in American practical politics, and they have performed admirable and
essential work on behalf of reform.

But it is equally true that the most prominent and thorough-going
reformers, such as Roosevelt, Bryan, and Hearst, are not lawyers by
profession, and that the majority of prominent American lawyers are not
reformers. The tendency of the legally trained mind is inevitably and
extremely conservative. So far as reform consists in the enforcement of
the law, it is, of course, supported by the majority of successful
lawyers; but so far as reform has come to mean a tendency to political
or economic reorganization, it has to face the opposition of the bulk of
American legal opinion. The existing political order has been created by
lawyers; and they naturally believe somewhat obsequiously in a system
for which they are responsible, and from which they benefit. This
government by law, of which they boast, is not only a government by
lawyers, but is a government in the interest of litigation. It makes
legal advice more constantly essential to the corporation and the
individual than any European political system. The lawyer, just as much
as the millionaire and the politician, has reaped a bountiful harvest
from the inefficiency and irresponsibility of American state
governments, and from the worship of individual rights.

They have corporations in Europe, but they have nothing corresponding to
the American corporation lawyer. The ablest American lawyers have been
retained by the special interests. In some cases they have been retained
to perform tasks which must have been repugnant to honest men; but that
is not the most serious aspect of the situation. The retainer which the
American legal profession has accepted from the corporations inevitably
increases its natural tendency to a blind conservatism; and its
influence has been used not for the purpose of extricating the large
corporations from their dubious and dangerous legal situation, but for
the purpose of keeping them entangled in its meshes. At a time when the
public interest needs a candid reconsideration of the basis and the
purpose of the American legal system, they have either opposed or
contributed little to the essential work, and in adopting this course
they have betrayed the interests of their more profitable clients--the
large corporations themselves--whose one chance of perpetuation depends
upon political and legal reconstruction.

The conservative believer in the existing American political system
will doubtless reply that the lawyer, in so far as he opposes radical
reform or reorganization, is merely remaining true to his function as
the High Priest of American constitutional democracy. And no doubt it is
begging the question at the present stage of this discussion, to assert
that American lawyers as such are not so well qualified as they were to
guide American political thought and action. But it can at least be
maintained that, assuming some radical reorganization to be necessary,
the existing prejudices, interests, and mental outlook of the American
lawyer disqualify him for the task. The legal profession is risking its
traditional position as the mouthpiece of the American political creed
and faith upon the adequacy of the existing political system. If there
is any thorough-going reorganization needed, it will be brought about in
spite of the opposition of the legal profession. They occupy in relation
to the modern economic and political problem a position similar to that
of the Constitutional Unionists previous to the Civil War. Those
estimable gentlemen believed devoutly that the Constitution, which
created the problem of slavery and provoked the anti-slavery agitation,
was adequate to its solution. In the same spirit learned lawyers now
affirm that the existing problems can easily be solved, if only American
public opinion remain faithful to the Constitution. But it may be that
the Constitution, as well as the system of local political government
built up around the Federal Constitution, is itself partly responsible
for some of the existing abuses, evils, and problems; and if so, the
American lawyer may be useful, as he was before the Civil War, in
evading our difficulties; but he will not be very useful in settling
them. He may try to settle them by decisions of the Supreme Court; but
such decisions,--assuming, of course, that the problem is as inexorable
as was that of the legal existence of slavery in a democratic
nation,--such decisions would have precisely the same effect on public
opinion as did the Dred Scott decision. They would merely excite a
crisis, which they were intended to allay, and strengthen the hands of
the more radical critics of the existing political system.



The changes which have been taking place in industrial and political and
social conditions have all tended to impair the consistency of feeling
characteristic of the first phase of American national democracy.
Americans are divided from one another much more than they were during
the Middle Period by differences of interest, of intellectual outlook,
of moral and technical standards, and of manner of life. Grave
inequalities of power and deep-lying differences of purpose have
developed in relation of the several primary American activities. The
millionaire, the "Boss," the union laborer, and the lawyer, have all
taken advantage of the loose American political organization to promote
somewhat unscrupulously their own interests, and to obtain special
sources of power and profit at the expense of a wholesome national
balance. But the foregoing examples of specialized organization and
purposes do not stand alone. They are the most conspicuous and the most
troublesome because of the power wielded by those particular classes,
and because they can claim for their purposes the support of certain
aspects of the American national tradition. Yet the same process has
been taking place in all the other departments of American social and
intellectual life. Technical experts of all kinds--engineers, men of
letters, and artists--have all of them been asserting much more
vigorously their own special interests and purposes. In so asserting
themselves they cannot claim the support of the American national
democratic convention. On the contrary, the proclamation of high
technical standards and of insistent individual purposes is equivalent
to a revolt from the traditions of the Middle Period, which were all in
favor of cheap work and the average worker. But different as is the
situation of these technical experts, the fundamental meaning of their
self-assertion is analogous to that of the millionaire and the "Boss."
The vast incoherent mass of the American people is falling into definite
social groups, which restrict and define the mental outlook and social
experience of their members. The all-round man of the innocent Middle
Period has become the exception. The earlier homogeneity of American
society has been impaired, and no authoritative and edifying, but
conscious, social ideal has as yet taken its place.

The specialized organization of American industry, politics, and labor,
and the increasingly severe special discipline imposed upon the
individual, are not to be considered as evils. On the contrary, they are
indications of greater practical efficiency, and they contain a promise
of individual moral and intellectual emancipation. But they have their
serious and perilous aspects, because no sufficient provision has been
made for them in the national democratic tradition. What it means is
that the American nation is being confronted by a problem which the
earlier national democracy expected to avoid--the social problem. By the
social problem is usually meant the problem of poverty; but grave
inequalities of wealth are merely the most dangerous and distressing
expression of fundamental differences among the members of a society of
interest and of intellectual and moral standards. In its deepest aspect,
consequently, the social problem is the problem of preventing such
divisions from dissolving the society into which they enter--of keeping
such a highly differentiated society fundamentally sound and whole.

In this country the solution of the social problem demands the
substitution of a conscious social ideal for the earlier instinctive
homogeneity of the American nation. That homogeneity has disappeared
never to return. We should not want it to return, because it was
dependent upon too many sacrifices of individual purpose and
achievement. But a democracy cannot dispense with the solidarity which
it imparted to American life, and in one way or another such solidarity
must be restored. There is only one way in which it can be restored, and
that is by means of a democratic social ideal, which shall give
consistency to American social life, without entailing any essential
sacrifice of desirable individual and class distinctions. I have used
the word "restoration" to describe this binding and healing process; but
the consistency which would result from the loyal realization of a
comprehensive coherent democratic social ideal would differ radically
from the earlier American homogeneity of feeling. The solidarity which
it would impart to American society would have its basis in feeling and
its results in good fellowship; but it must always remain a promise and
constructive ideal rather than a finished performance. The social
problem must, as long as societies continue to endure, be solved afresh
by almost every generation; and the one chance of progress depends both
upon an invincible loyalty to a constructive social ideal and upon a
current understanding by the new generation of the actual experience of
its predecessors.




Sensible and patriotic Americans have not, of course, tamely and ignobly
submitted to the obvious evils of their political and economic
condition. There was, indeed, a season when the average good American
refused to take these evils seriously. He was possessed by the idea that
American life was a stream, which purified itself in the running, and
that reformers and critics were merely men who prevented the stream from
running free. He looked upon the first spasmodic and ineffective
protests with something like contempt. Reformers he appraised as
busybodies, who were protesting against the conditions of success in
business and politics. He nicknamed them "mugwumps" and continued to
vote the regular tickets of his party. There succeeded to this phase of
contemptuous dislike a few years, in which he was somewhat bewildered by
the increasing evidences of corruption in American politics and
lawlessness in American business methods, and during which he
occasionally supported some favorite among the several reforming
movements. Then a habit of criticism and reform increased with the sense
that the evils were both more flagrant and more stubborn than he
imagined, until at the present time average well-intentioned Americans
are likely to be reformers of one kind or another, while the more
intelligent and disinterested of them are pretty sure to vote a "reform"
ticket. To stand for a programme of reform has become one of the
recognized roads to popularity. The political leaders with the largest
personal followings are some kind of reformers. They sit in presidential
chairs; they occupy executive mansions; they extort legislation from
unwilling politicians; they regulate and abuse the erring corporations;
they are coming to control the press; and they are the most aggressive
force in American public opinion. The supporters and beneficiaries of
existing abuses still control much of the official and practically all
the unofficial political and business machinery; but they are less
domineering and self-confident than they were. The reformers have both
scared and bewildered them. They begin to realize that reform has come
to stay, and perhaps even to conquer, while reform itself is beginning
to pay the penalty of success by being threatened with deterioration. It
has had not only its hero in Theodore Roosevelt, but its specter in
William R. Hearst.

In studying the course of the reforming movement during the last
twenty-five years, it appears that, while reform has had a history, this
history is only beginning. Since 1880, or even 1895 or 1900, it has been
transformed in many significant ways. In the beginning it was spasmodic
in its outbursts, innocent in its purposes, and narrow in its outlook.
It sprang up almost spontaneously in a number of different places and in
a number of different detached movements; and its adherents did not look
much beyond a victory at a particular election, or the passage of a few
remedial laws. Gradually, however, it increased in definiteness,
persistence, and comprehensiveness of purpose. The reformers found the
need of permanent organization, of constant work, and even within
limits, of a positive programme. Their success and their influence upon
public opinion increased just in proportion as they began to take their
job seriously. Indeed, they have become extremely self-conscious in
relation to their present standing and their future responsibilities.
They are beginning to predict the most abundant results from the
"uplift" movement, of which they are the leaders. They confidently
anticipate that they are destined to make a much more salient and
significant contribution to the history of their country than has been
made by any group of political leaders since the Civil War.

It is in a sense a misnomer to write of "Reform" as a single thing.
Reform is, as a matter of fact, all sorts of things. The name has been
applied to a number of separate political agitations, which have been
started by different people at different times in different parts of the
country, and these separate movements have secured very different kinds
of support, and have run very different courses. Tariff reform, for
instance, was an early and popular agitation whose peculiarity has
consisted in securing the support of one of the two national parties,
but which in spite of that support has so far made little substantial
progress. Civil service reform, on the other hand, was the first
agitation looking in the direction of political purification. The early
reformers believed that the eradication of the spoils system would deal
a deadly blow at political corruption and professional politics. But
although they have been fairly successful in establishing the "merit"
system in the various public offices, the results of the reform have not
equaled the promises of its advocates. While it is still an important
part of the programme of reform from the point of view of many
reformers, it has recently been over-shadowed by other issues. It does
not provoke either as much interest as it did or as much opposition.
Municipal reform has, of course, almost as many centers of agitation as
there are centers of corruption--that is, large municipalities in the
United States. It began as a series of local non-partisan movements for
the enforcement of the laws, the dispossession of the "rascals," and the
businesslike, efficient administration of municipal affairs; but the
reformers discovered in many cases that municipal corruption could not
be eradicated without the reform of state politics, and without some
drastic purging of the local public service corporations. They have
consequently in many cases enlarged the area of their agitation; but in
so doing they have become divided among themselves, and their agitation
has usually lost its non-partisan character. Finally the agitation
against the trusts has developed a confused hodge-podge of harmless and
deadly, overlapping and mutually exclusive, remedies, which are the
cause of endless disagreements. Of course they are all for the People
and against the Octopus, but beyond this precise and comprehensive
statement of the issue, the reformers have endlessly different views
about the nature of the disease and the severity of the necessary

If reform is an ambiguous and many-headed thing, the leading reformers
are as far as possible from being a body of men capable of mutual
cooeperation. They differ almost as widely among themselves as they do
from the beneficiaries or supporters of the existing abuses. William R.
Hearst, William Travers Jerome, Seth Low, and George B. McClellan are
all in their different ways reformers; but they would not constitute
precisely a happy family. Indeed, Mr. Hearst, who in his own opinion is
the only immaculate reformer, is, in the eyes of his fellow-reformers,
as dangerous a public enemy as the most corrupt politician or the most
unscrupulous millionaire. Any reformer who, like Mr. William Jennings
Bryan, proclaims views which are in some respects more than usually
radical, comes in for heartier denunciation from his brothers in reform
than he does from the conservatives. Each of our leading reformers is
more or less a man on horseback, who is seeking to popularize a
particular brand of reform, and who is inclined to doubt whether the
other brands are available for public consumption without rigid
inspection. Consequently, the party of reform is broken up into a number
of insurgent personalities. "The typical reformer," says the late Alfred
Hodder in a book written in praise of Mr. William Travers Jerome, "The
typical reformer is a 'star,' and a typical reform administration is
usually a company of stars," and a most amusing piece of special
pleading is the reasoning whereby the same author seeks to prove that
Mr. Jerome himself is or was not a "star" performer. The preference
which individual performers have shown for leading parts is in itself
far from being a bad thing, but the lack of "team play" has none the
less diminished the efficiency of reform as a practical and prosperous
political agitation.

These disagreements are the more significant, because the different
"star" reformers are sufficiently united upon their statement of
fundamental principles. They all of them agree to conceive of reform as
at bottom a moral protest and awakening, which seeks to enforce the
violated laws and to restore the American political and economic system
to its pristine purity and vigor. From their point of view certain
abuses have become unwholesomely conspicuous, because the average
American citizen has been a little lethargic, and allowed a few of his
more energetic and unscrupulous fellow-citizens to exploit for selfish
purposes the opportunities of American business and politics. The
function of reform, consequently, is to deprive these parasites of their
peculiar opportunities. Few reformers anticipate now that this task will
be easily or quickly accomplished. They are coming to realize that the
abuses are firmly intrenched, and a prolonged siege as well as constant
assaults are necessary for final success. Some reformers are even
tending to the opinion that a tradition of reform and succession of
reformers will be demanded for the vigilant protection of the American
political and economic system against abuse. But the point is the
agreement among practical reformers that reform means at bottom no more
than moral and political purification. It may, indeed, bring with it the
necessity of a certain amount of reorganization; but such reorganization
will aim merely at the improvement of the existing political and
economic machinery. Present and future reformers must cleanse, oil, and
patch a piece of economic and political machinery, which in all
essentials is adequate to its purpose. The millionaire and the trust
have appropriated too many of the economic opportunities formerly
enjoyed by the people. The corrupt politician has usurped too much of
the power which should be exercised by the people. Reform must restore
to the people the opportunities and power of which they have been

An agitation of this kind, deriving as it does its principles and
purposes from the very source of American democracy, would seem to
deserve the support of all good Americans: and such support was in the
beginning expected. Reformers have always tended to believe that their
agitation ought to be and essentially was non-partisan. They considered
it inconceivable either that patriotic American citizens should hesitate
about restoring the purity and vigor of American institutions, or such
an object should not appeal to every disinterested man, irrespective of
party. It was a fight between the law and its violators, between the
Faithful and the Heretic, between the Good and the Wicked. In such a
fight there was, of course, only one aide to take. It was not to be
doubted that the honest men, who constitute, of course, an enormous
majority of the "plain people," would rally to the banners of reform.
The rascals would be turned out; the people would regain their economic
opportunities and political rights; and the American democracy would
pursue undefiled its triumphant career of legalized prosperity.

These hopes have never been realized. Reform has rarely been
non-partisan--except in the minds of its more innocent advocates. Now
and then an agitation for municipal reform in a particular city will
suffer a spasm of non-partisanship; but the reformers soon develop such
lively differences among themselves, that they separate into special
groups or else resume their regular party ties. Their common conception
of reform as fundamentally a moral awakening, which seeks to restore the
American, political and economic system to its early purity and vigor,
does not help them to unity of action or to unity in the framing of a
remedial policy. Different reformers really mean something very
different by the traditional system, from which American practice has
departed and which they propose to restore. Some of them mean thereby a
condition of spiritual excellence, which will be restored by a sort of
politico-moral revivalism and which will somehow make the results of
divine and popular election coincide. Others mean nothing more than the
rigid enforcement of existing laws. Still others mean a new legal
expression of the traditional democratic principle, framed to meet the
new political and social conditions; but the reformers who agree upon
this last conception of reform disagree radically as to what the new
legal expression should be. The traditional system, which they seek to
restore, assumes almost as many shapes as there are leading reformers;
and as the reforming movement develops, the disagreements among the
reformers become more instead of less definite and acute.

The inability of the reformers to cooeperate in action or to agree as to
the application of their principles is in part merely a natural result
of their essential work. Reformers are primarily protestants; and
protestants are naturally insubordinate. They have been protesting
against the established order in American business and politics. Their
protest implies a certain degree of moral and intellectual independence,
which makes them dislike to surrender or subordinate their own personal
opinions and manner of action. Such independence is a new and refreshing
thing, which has suddenly made American politics much more interesting
and significant than it has been at any time since the Civil War. It has
a high value wholly apart from its immediate political results. It means
that the American people are beginning a new phase of their political
experience,--a phase in which there will be room for a much freer play
of individual ability and character. Inevitably the sudden realization
by certain exceptional politicians that they have a right to be
individuals, and that they can take a strong line of their own in
politics without being disqualified for practical political association
with their fellow-countrymen--such a new light could hardly break
without tempting the performers to over-play the part. The fact that
they have over-played their parts, and have wasted time and energy over
meaningless and unnecessary disagreements is not in itself a matter of
much importance. The great majority of them are disinterested and
patriotic men, who will not allow in the long run either personal
ambition or political crotchets to prevent them from cooeperating for the
good of the cause.

Unfortunately, however, neither public spirit nor patriotism will be
sufficient to bring them effectively together--any more than genuine
excellence of intention and real public spirit enabled patriotic
Americans to cooeperate upon a remedial policy during the years
immediately preceding the Civil War. The plain fact is that the
traditional American political system, which so many good reformers wish
to restore by some sort of reforming revivalism, is just as much
responsible for the existing political and economic abuses as the
Constitution was responsible for the evil of slavery. As long,
consequently, as reform is considered to be a species of higher
conservatism, the existing abuses can no more be frankly faced and fully
understood than the Whig leaders were able to face and understand the
full meaning and consequences of any attempt on the part of a democracy
to keep house with slavery. The first condition of a better
understanding and a more efficient cooeperation among the reforming
leaders is a better understanding of the meaning of reform and the
function of reformers. They will never be united on the basis of
allegiance to the traditional American political creed, because that
creed itself is overflowing with inconsistencies and ambiguities, which
afford a footing for almost every extreme of radicalism and
conservatism; and in case they persist in the attempt to reform
political and economic abuses merely by a restoration of earlier
conditions and methods, they will be compromising much that is good in
the present economic and political organization without recovering that
which was good in the past.



The prevailing preconception of the reformers, that the existing evils
and abuses have been due chiefly to the energy and lack of scruple with
which business men and politicians have taken advantage of the good but
easy-going American, and that a general increase of moral energy,
assisted by some minor legal changes, will restore the balance,--such a
conception of the situation is less than half true. No doubt, the "plain
people" of the United States have been morally indifferent, and have
allowed unscrupulous special interests to usurp too much power; but that
is far from being the whole story. The unscrupulous energy of the "Boss"
or the "tainted" millionaire is vitally related to the moral
indifference of the "plain people." Both of them have been encouraged to
believe by the nature of our traditional ideas and institutions that a
man could be patriotic without being either public-spirited or
disinterested. The democratic state has been conceived as a piece of
political machinery, which existed for the purpose of securing certain
individual rights and opportunities--the expectation being that the
greatest individual happiness would be thereby promoted, and one which
harmonized with the public interest. Consequently when the "Boss" and
the "tainted" millionaire took advantage of this situation to secure for
themselves an unusually large amount of political and economic power,
they were putting into practice an idea which traditionally had been
entirely respectable, and which during the pioneer period had not worked
badly. On the other hand, when, the mass of American voters failed to
detect the danger of such usurpation until it had gone altogether too
far, they, too, were not without warrant for their lethargy and
callousness. They, too, in a smaller way had considered the American
political and economic system chiefly as a system framed for their
individual benefit, and it did not seem sportsmanlike to turn and rend
their more successful competitors, until they were told that the
"trusts" and the "Bosses" were violating the sacred principle of equal
rights. Thus the abuses of which we are complaining are not weeds which
have been allowed to spring up from neglect, and which can be eradicated
by a man with a hoe. They are cultivated plants, which, if not
precisely specified in the plan of the American political and economic
garden, have at least been encouraged by traditional methods of

The fact that this dangerous usurpation of power has been accomplished
partly by illegal methods has blinded many reformers to two
considerations, which have a vital relation to both the theory and the
practice of reform. Violation of the law was itself partly the result of
conflicting and unwise state legislation, and for this reason did not
seem very heinous either to its perpetrators or to public opinion. But
even if the law had not been violated, similar results would have
followed. Under the traditional American system, with the freedom
permitted to the individual, with the restriction placed on the central
authority, and with its assumption of a substantial identity between the
individual and the public interest--under such a system unusually
energetic and unscrupulous men were bound to seize a kind and an amount
of political and economic power which was not entirely wholesome. They
had a license to do so; and if they had failed to take advantage
thereof, their failure would have been an indication, not of
disinterestedness or moral impeccability, but of sheer weakness and

How utterly confusing it is, consequently, to consider reform as
equivalent merely to the restoration of the American democracy to a
former condition of purity and excellence! Our earlier political and
economic condition was not at its best a fit subject for any great
amount of complacency. It cannot be restored, even if we would; and the
public interest has nothing to gain by its restoration. The usurpation
of power by "trusts" and "Bosses" is more than anything else an
expression of a desirable individual initiative and organizing
ability--which have been allowed to become dangerous and partly corrupt,
because of the incoherence and the lack of purpose and responsibility in
the traditional American political and economic system. A "purification"
might well destroy the good with the evil; and even if it were
successful in eradicating certain abuses, would only prepare the way for
the outbreak in another form of the tendency towards individual
aggrandizement and social classification. No amount of moral energy,
directed merely towards the enforcement of the laws, can possibly avail
to accomplish any genuine or lasting reform. It is the laws themselves
which are partly at fault, and still more at fault is the group of ideas
and traditional practices behind the laws.

Reformers have failed for the most part to reach a correct diagnosis of
existing political and economic abuses, because they are almost as much
the victim of perverted, confused, and routine habits of political
thought as is the ordinary politician. They have eschewed the tradition
of partisan conformity in reference to controverted political questions,
but they have not eschewed a still more insidious tradition of
conformity--the tradition that a patriotic American citizen must not in
his political thinking go beyond the formulas consecrated in the sacred
American writings. They adhere to the stupefying rule that the good
Fathers of the Republic relieved their children from the necessity of
vigorous, independent, or consistent thinking in political
matters,--that it is the duty of their loyal children to repeat the
sacred words and then await a miraculous consummation of individual and
social prosperity. Accordingly, all the leading reformers begin by
piously reiterating certain phrases about equal rights for all and
special privileges for none, and of government of the people, by the
people, and for the people. Having in this way proved their fundamental
political orthodoxy, they proceed to interpret the phrases according to
their personal, class, local, and partisan preconceptions and interests.
They have never stopped to inquire whether the principle of equal rights
in its actual embodiment in American institutional and political
practice has not been partly responsible for some of the existing
abuses, whether it is either a safe or sufficient platform for a
reforming movement, and whether its continued proclamation as the
fundamental political principle of a democracy will help or hinder the
higher democratic consummation. Their unquestioning orthodoxy in this
respect has made them faithless both to their own personal interest as
reformers and to the cause of reform. Reform exclusively as a moral
protest and awakening is condemned to sterility. Reformers exclusively
as moral protestants and purifiers are condemned to misdirected effort,
to an illiberal puritanism, and to personal self-stultification. Reform
must necessarily mean an intellectual as well as a moral challenge; and
its higher purposes will never be accomplished unless it is accompanied
by a masterful and jubilant intellectual awakening.

All Americans, whether they are professional politicians or reformer,
"predatory" millionaires or common people, political philosophers or
schoolboys, accept the principle of "equal rights for all and special
privileges for none" as the absolutely sufficient rule of an American
democratic political system. The platforms of both parties testify on
its behalf. Corporation lawyers and their clients appear frequently to
believe in it. Tammany offers tribute to it during every local political
campaign in New York. A Democratic Senator, in the intervals between his
votes for increased duties on the products of his state, declares it to
be the summary of all political wisdom. The fact that Mr. Bryan
incorporates it in most of his speeches does not prevent Mr. Hearst from
keeping it standing in type for the purpose of showing how very American
the _American_ can be. The fact that Mr. Hearst has appropriated it with
the American flag as belonging peculiarly to himself has not prevented
Mr. Roosevelt from explaining the whole of his policy of reform as at
the bottom an attempt to restore a "Square Deal"--that is, a condition
of equal rights and non-existing privileges. More radical reformers find
the same principle equally useful for their own purposes. Mr. Frederic
C. Howe, in his "Hope of Democracy," bases an elaborate scheme of
municipal socialism exclusively upon it. Mr. William Smythe, in his
"Constructive Democracy," finds warrant in the same principle for the
immediate purchase by the central government of the railway and "trust"
franchises. Mr. Henry George, Jr., in his "Menace of Privilege," asserts
that the plain American citizen can never enjoy equality of rights as
long as land, mines, railroad rights of way and terminals, and the like
remain in the hands of private owners. The collectivist socialists are
no less certain that the institution of private property necessarily
gives some men an unjust advantage over others. There is no extreme of
radicalism or conservatism, of individualism or socialism, of
Republicanism or Democracy, which does not rest its argument on this one
consummate principle.

In this respect, the good American finds himself in a situation similar
to that with which he was confronted before the Civil War. At that time,
also, Abolitionist and slave-holder, Republican and pioneer Democrat,
each of them declared himself to be the interpreter of the true
democratic doctrine; and no substantial progress could be made towards
the settlement of the question, until public opinion had been instructed
as to the real meaning of democracy in relation to the double-headed
problem of slavery and states' rights. It required the utmost
intellectual courage and ability to emancipate the conception of
democracy from the illusions and confusions of thought which enabled
Davis, Douglas, and Garrison all to pose as impeccable democrats; and at
the present time reformers need to devote as much ability and more
courage to the task of framing a fitting creed for a reformed and
reforming American democracy.

The political lessons of the anti-slavery and states' rights discussions
may not be of much obvious assistance in thinking out such a creed; but
they should at least help the reformers to understand the methods
whereby the purposes of a reformed democracy can be achieved. No
progress was made towards the solution of the slavery question until the
question itself was admitted to be national in scope, and its solution a
national responsibility. No substantial progress had been made in the
direction of reform until it began to be understood that here, also, a
national responsibility existed, which demanded an exercise of the
powers of the central government. Reform is both meaningless and
powerless unless the Jeffersonian principle of non-interference is
abandoned. The experience of the last generation plainly shows that the
American economic and social system cannot be allowed to take care of
itself, and that the automatic harmony of the individual and the public
interest, which is the essence of the Jeffersonian democratic creed, has
proved to be an illusion. Interference with the natural course of
individual and popular action there must be in the public interest; and
such interference must at least be sufficient to accomplish its
purposes. The house of the American democracy is again by way of being
divided against itself, because the national interest has not been
consistently asserted as against special and local interests; and again,
also, it can be reunited only by being partly reconstructed on better
foundations. If reform does not and cannot mean restoration, it is bound
to mean reconstruction.

The reformers have come partly to realize that the Jeffersonian policy
of drift must be abandoned. They no longer expect the American ship of
state by virtue of its own righteous framework to sail away to a safe
harbor in the Promised Land. They understand that there must be a
vigorous and conscious assertion of the public as opposed to private and
special interests, and that the American people must to a greater extent
than they have in the past subordinate the latter to the former. They
behave as if the American ship of state will hereafter require careful
steering; and a turn or two at the wheel has given them some idea of the
course they must set. On the other hand, even the best of them have not
learned the name of its ultimate destination, the full difficulties of
the navigation, or the stern discipline which may eventually be imposed
upon the ship's crew. They do not realize, that is, how thoroughly
Jeffersonian individualism must be abandoned for the benefit of a
genuinely individual and social consummation; and they do not realize
how dangerous and fallacious a chart their cherished principle of equal
rights may well become. In reviving the practice of vigorous national
action for the achievement of a national purpose, the better reformers
have, if they only knew it, been looking in the direction of a much more
trustworthy and serviceable political principle. The assumption of such
a responsibility implies the rejection of a large part of the
Jeffersonian creed, and a renewed attempt to establish in its place the
popularity of its Hamiltonian rival. On the other hand, it involves no
less surely the transformation of Hamiltonianism into a thoroughly
democratic political principle. None of these inferences have, however,
as yet been generally drawn, and no leading reformer has sought to give
reform its necessary foundation of positive, political principle.

Only a very innocent person will expect reformers to be convinced of
such a novel notion of reform by mere assertion, no matter how emphatic,
or by argument, no matter how conclusive. But if, as I have said, reform
actually implies a criticism of traditional American ideas, and a more
responsible and more positive conception of democracy, these
implications will necessarily be revealed in the future history of the
reforming agitation. The reformers who understand will be assisted by
the logic of events, whereas those who cannot and will not understand
will be thwarted by the logic of events. Gradually (it may be
anticipated) reformers, who dare to criticise and who are not afraid to
reconstruct will be sharply distinguished from reformers who believe
reform to be a species of higher conservatism. The latter will be
forced where they belong into the ranks of the supporters and
beneficiaries of the existing system; and the party of genuine reform
will be strengthened by their departure. On the other hand, the sincere
and thorough-going reformers can hardly avoid a division into two
divergent groups. One of these groups will stick faithfully to the
principle of equal rights and to the spirit of the true Jeffersonian
faith. It will seek still further to undermine the representative
character of American institutions, to deprive official leadership of
any genuine responsibility, and to cultivate individualism at the
expense of individual and national integrity. The second group, on the
other hand, may learn from experience that the principle of equal rights
is a dangerous weapon in the hands of factious and merely revolutionary
agitators, and even that such a principle is only a partial and
poverty-stricken statement of the purpose of a democratic polity. The
logic of its purposes will compel it to favor the principle of
responsible representative government, and it will seek to forge
institutions which will endow responsible political government with
renewed life. Above all, it may discover that the attempt to unite the
Hamiltonian principle of national political responsibility and
efficiency with a frank democratic purpose will give a new meaning to
the Hamiltonian system of political ideas and a new power to democracy.



One would hardly dare to assert that such a future for the reforming
agitation is already prophesied by the history of reform; but the
divergence between different classes of the reformers is certainly
widening, and some such alignment can already be distinguished. Hitherto
I have been classing reformers together and have been occupied in
pointing out the merits and failings which they possess in common. Such
a method of treatment hardly does justice to the significance of their
mutual disagreements, or to the individual value of their several
personalities and points of view. In many instances their disagreements
are meaningless, and are not the result of any genuine conviction; but
in other instances they do represent a relevant and significant conflict
of ideas. It remains to be seen, consequently, what can be made out of
their differences of opinion and policy, and whether they point in the
direction of a gradual transformation of the agitation for reform. For
this purpose I shall select a number of leading reformers whose work has
been most important, and whose individual opinions are most significant,
and seek some sort of an appraisal both of the comparative value of
their work and of the promise of their characteristic ideas. The men who
naturally suggest themselves for this purpose are William J. Bryan,
William Travers Jerome, William Randolph Hearst, and Theodore Roosevelt.
Each of these gentlemen throughout his public life has consistently
stood for reform of one kind or another; and together they include
almost every popular brand or phase thereof. Reform as a practical
agitation is pretty well exhausted by the points of view of these four
gentlemen. They exhibit its weakness and its strength, its illusions and
its good intentions, its dangerous and its salutary tendencies.

Be it remarked at the outset that three of these gentlemen call
themselves Democrats, while the fourth has been the official leader of
the Republican party. The distinction to be made on this ground is
sufficiently obvious, but it is also extremely important. The three
Democrats differ among themselves in certain very important respects,
and these differences will receive their full share of attention.
Nevertheless the fact that under ordinary circumstances they affiliate
with the Democratic party and accept its traditions gives them certain
common characteristics, and (it must be added) subjects them to certain
common disabilities. On the other hand the fact that Theodore Roosevelt,
although a reformer from the very beginning of his public life, has
resolutely adhered to the Republican partisan organization and has
accepted its peculiar traditions,--this fact, also, has largely
determined the character and the limits of his work. These limits are
plainly revealed in the opinions, the public policy, and the public
action of the four typical reformers; and attempt to appraise the value
of their individual opinions and their personalities must be constantly
checked by a careful consideration of the advantages or disadvantages
which they have enjoyed or suffered from their partisan ties.

Mr. William J. Bryan is a fine figure of a man--amiable, winning,
disinterested, courageous, enthusiastic, genuinely patriotic, and after
a fashion liberal in spirit. Although he hails from Nebraska, he is in
temperament a Democrat of the Middle Period--a Democrat of the days when
organization in business and politics did not count for as much as it
does to-day, and when excellent intentions and noble sentiments embodied
in big flowing words were the popular currency of American democracy.
But while an old-fashioned Democrat in temperament, he has become in
ideas a curious mixture of traditional democracy and modern Western
radicalism; and he can, perhaps, be best understood as a Democrat of
both Jeffersonian and Jacksonian tendencies, who has been born a few
generations too late. He is honestly seeking to deal with contemporary
American political problems in the spirit, if not according to the
letter, of traditional democracy; but though he is making a gallant
fight and a brave show, his efforts are not being rewarded with any
conspicuous measure of success.

Mr. Bryan has always been a reformer, but his programme of reform has
always been ill conceived. His first conspicuous appearance in public
life in the Democratic Convention of 1806 was occasioned by the acute
and widespread economic distress among his own people west of the
Mississippi; and the means whereby he sought to remedy that distress,
viz. by a change in the currency system, which would enable the Western
debtors partly to repudiate their debts, was a genuine result of
Jacksonian economic ideas. The Jacksonian Democracy, being the product
of agricultural life, and being inexperienced in the complicated
business of finance, has always relished financial heresies. Bryan's
first campaign was, consequently, a new assertion of a time-honored
tendency of his party; and in other respects, also, he exhibited a
lingering fealty to its older traditions. Reformer though he be, he has
never been much interested in civil service reform, or in any agitations
looking in the direction of the diminution of the influence of the
professional politician. The reforms for which he has stood have been
economic, and he has had little sympathy with any thorough-going
attempt to disturb even such an equivocally Democratic institution as
the spoils system. Yet his lack of sympathy with this aspect of reform
was not due to any preference for corruption. It must be traced to a
persistence of the old Democratic prejudice that administrative
specialization, like other kinds of expert service, implied a
discrimination against the average Democrat.

After the revival of prosperity among his own people had shown that
partial repudiation was not the only cure for poverty, Mr. Bryan fought
his second campaign chiefly on the issue of imperialism, and again met
with defeat. But in this instance his platform was influenced more by
Jeffersonian than Jacksonian ideas. The Jacksonian Democracy had always
been expansionist in disposition and policy, and under the influence of
their nationalism they had lost interest in Jefferson's humanitarianism.
In this matter, however, Mr. Bryan has shown more sympathy with the
first than with the second phase of the Democratic tradition; and in
making this choice he was undoubtedly more faithful to the spirit and
the letter of the Democratic creed than were the expansionist Democrats
of the Middle Period. The traditional American democracy has frequently
been national in feeling, but it has never been national in idea and
purpose. In the campaign of 1900 Mr. Bryan committed himself and his
party to an anti-national point of view; and no matter how well
intentioned and consistent he was in so doing, he made a second mistake,
even more disastrous than the first. In seeking to prevent his
countrymen from asserting their national interest beyond their own
continent, he was also opposing in effect the resolute assertion of the
national interest in domestic affairs. He stamped himself, that is, as
an anti-nationalist, and his anti-nationalism has disqualified him for
effective leadership of the party of reform.

Mr. Bryan's anti-nationalism is peculiarly embarrassing to his political
efficiency just because he is, as I have indicated, in many of his ideas
an advanced contemporary radical. He is, indeed, more of a radical than
any other political leader of similar prominence; and his radicalism is
the result of a sincere and a candid attempt to think out a satisfactory
solution of the contemporary economic and political problems. As a
result of these reflections he dared to advocate openly and
unequivocally the public ownership of the railway system of the country;
and he has proposed, also, a measure of Federal regulation of
corporations, conducting an inter-state business, much more drastic than
that of Mr. Roosevelt. These proposed increases of Federal
responsibility and power would have been considered outrageous by an
old-fashioned Democrat; and they indicate on the part of Mr. Bryan an
unusually liberal and courageous mind. But the value and effect of his
radicalism is seriously impaired by the manner in which it is qualified.
He proposes in one breath enormous increases of Federal power and
responsibility, and in the next betrays the old Democratic distrust of
effective national organization. He is willing to grant power to the
Federal authorities, but he denies them any confidence, because of the
democratic tradition of an essential conflict between political
authority, particularly so far as it is centralized, and the popular
interest. He is incapable of adapting his general political theories to
his actual political programme; and, consequently, the utmost personal
enthusiasm on his part and great power of effective political agitation
cannot give essential coherence, substantial integrity, or triumphant
effect to his campaigns.

The incoherence of his political thinking is best exemplified by the way
in which he proposed to nationalize the American railway system. His
advocacy of public ownership was the most courageous act of his
political career; but he soon showed that he was prepared neither to
insist upon such a policy nor even to carry it to a logical conclusion.
Almost as soon as the words were out of his mouth, he became horrified
at his own audacity and sought to mitigate its effects. He admitted that
the centralization of so much power was dangerous, and he sought to make
these dangers less by proposing that the states appropriate the
railroads operating within the boundaries of one state, and the central
government, only the large inter-state systems. But this qualification
destroyed the effect of his Federalist audacity. The inter-state
railroads constitute such an enormous percentage of the total mileage of
the country that if centralized governmental control was dangerous for
all the railroads of the country, it would be almost equally dangerous
for that proportion of the railway mileage operated as part of
inter-state systems. In the one and the same speech, that is, Mr. Bryan
placed himself on record as a radical centralizer of economic and
political power and as a man who was on general principles afraid of
centralization and opposed to it. No wonder public opinion did not take
his proposal seriously, and no wonder he himself has gradually dropped
it out of his practical programme.

The confusion and inconsistency of Mr. Bryan's own thinking is merely
the reflection of the confusion and inconsistency resident in the creed
of his party. It is particularly conspicuous in his case, because he is,
as I have intimated, a sincere and within limits a candid thinker; but
Jeffersonian and Jacksonian Democrats alike have always distrusted and
condemned the means whereby alone the underlying purposes of democracy
can be fulfilled. Mr. Bryan is in no respect more genuinely Democratic
than in his incoherence. The remedial policy which he proposes for the
ills of the American political body are meaningless, unless sustained by
faith in the ability of the national political organization to promote
the national welfare. His needs for the success and integrity of his own
policy a conviction which his traditions prevent him from entertaining.
He is possessed by the time-honored Democratic dislike of organization
and of the faith in expert skill, in specialized training, and in large
personal opportunities and responsibilities which are implied by a trust
in organization. Of course he himself would deny that he was the enemy
of anything which made towards human betterment, for it is
characteristic of the old-fashioned Democrats verbally to side with the
angels, but at the same time to insist on clipping their wings. His
fundamental prejudice against efficient organization and personal
independence is plainly betrayed by his opinions in relation to
institutional reform--which are absolutely those of a Democrat of the
Middle Period. He is on record in favor of destroying the independence
of the Federal judiciary by making it elective, of diminishing the
authority of the President by allowing him only a suspensive veto on
legislation, and of converting representative assemblies into a
machinery, like that of the old French Parliaments, for merely
registering the Sovereign will. Faith in the people and confidence in
popular government means to Mr. Bryan an utter lack of faith in those
personal instruments whereby such rule can be endowed with foresight,
moderation, and direction. Confidence in the average man, that is, means
to him distrust in the exceptional man, or in any sort of organization
which bestows on the exceptional man an opportunity equal to his ability
and equipment. He stands for the sacrifice of the individual to the
popular average; and the perpetuation of such a sacrifice would mean
ultimate democratic degeneration.



Mr. William Travers Jerome has not so assured a rank in the hierarchy of
reformers as he had a few years ago, but his work and his point of view
remain typical and significant. Unlike Mr. Bryan, he is in temperament
and sympathies far from being an old-fashioned Democrat. He is, as his
official expositor, the late Mr. Alfred Hodder, says, "a typical
American of the new time." No old-fashioned Democrat would have smoked
cigarettes, tossed dice in public for drinks, and "handed out" slang to
his constituents; and his unconventionally in these respects is merely
an occasional expression of a novel, individual, and refreshing point of
view. Mr. Jerome alone among American politicians has made a specialty
of plain speaking. He has revolted against the tradition in our politics
which seeks to stop every leak with a good intention and plaster every
sore with a "decorative phrase." He has, says Mr. Hodder, "a partly
Gallic passion for intellectual veracity, for a clear recognition of the
facts before him, however ugly, and a wholly Gallic hatred of
hypocrisy." It is Mr. Jerome's intellectual veracity, his somewhat
conscious and strenuous ideal of plain speaking, which has been his
personal contribution to the cause of reform; and he is right in
believing it to be a very important contribution. The effective work of
reform, as has already been pointed out, demands on the part of its
leaders the intellectual virtues of candor, consistency, and a clear
recognition of facts. In Mr. Jerome's own case his candor and his clear
recognition of facts have been used almost exclusively in the field of
municipal reform. He has vigorously protested against existing laws
which have been passed in obedience to a rigorous puritanism, which,
because of their defiance of stubborn facts, can scarcely be enforced,
and whose statutory existence merely provides an opportunity for the
"grafter." He has clearly discerned that in seeking the amendment of
such laws he is obliged to fight, not merely an unwise statute, but an
erroneous, superficial, and hypocritical state of mind. Although it may
have been his own official duty as district attorney to see that certain
laws are enforced and to prosecute the law breakers, he fully realizes
that municipal reform at least will never attain its ends until the
public--the respectable, well-to-do, church-going public--is converted
to an abandonment of what Mr. Hodder calls administrative lying.
Consequently his intellectual candor is more than a personal
peculiarity--more even than an extremely effective method of popular
agitation. It is the expression of a deeper aspect of reform, which many
respectable reformers, not merely ignore, but fear and reprobate,--an
aspect of reform which can never prevail until the reformers themselves
are subjected to a process of purgation and education.

It has happened, however, that Mr. Jerome's reputation and successes
have been won in the field of local politics; and, unfortunately, as
soon as he transgressed the boundaries of that field, he lost his
efficiency, his insight, and, to my mind, his interest. Only a year
after he was elected to the district attorneyship of New York County, in
spite of the opposition both of Tammany and William R. Hearst, he
offered himself as a candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial
nomination of New York on the comprehensive platform of his oath of
office; but in the larger arena his tactics proved to be ineffective,
and his recent popularity of small avail. He cut no figure at all in the
convention, and a very insignificant one outside. Neither was there any
reason to be surprised at this result. In municipal politics he stood
for an ideal and a method of agitation which was both individual and of
great value. In state and national politics he stood for nothing
individual, for nothing of peculiar value, for no specific group of
ideas or scheme of policy. The announcement that a candidate's platform
consists of his oath of office doubtless has a full persuasive sound to
many Americans; but it was none the less on Mr. Jerome's part an inept
and meaningless performance. He was bidding for support merely on the
ground that he was an honest man who proposed to keep his word; but
honesty and good faith are qualities which the public have a right to
take for granted in their officials, and no candidate can lay peculiar
claim to them without becoming politically sanctimonious. Mr. Hearst's
strength consisted in the fact that he had for years stood for a
particular group of ideas and a particular attitude of mind towards the
problems of state and national politics, while Mr. Jerome's weakness
consisted in the fact that he had never really tried to lead public
opinion in relation to state and national political problems, and that
he was obliged to claim support on the score of personal moral
superiority to his opponent. The moral superiority may be admitted; but
alone it never would and never should contribute to his election. In
times like these a reformer must identify a particular group of remedial
measures with his public personality. The public has a right to know in
what definite ways a reformer's righteousness is to be made effective;
and Mr. Jerome has never taken any vigorous and novel line in relation
to the problems of state and national politics. When he speaks on those
subjects, he loses his vivacity, and betrays in his thinking a tendency
to old-fashioned Democracy far beyond that of Mr. Bryan. He becomes in
his opinions eminently respectable and tolerably dull, which is, as the
late Mr. Alfred Hodder could have told him, quite out of keeping with
the part of a "New American."

Mr. Jerome has never given the smallest evidence of having taken serious
independent thought on our fundamental political problems. In certain
points of detail respecting general political questions he has shown a
refreshing freedom from conventional illusions; but, so far as I know,
no public word has ever escaped him, which indicates that he has applied
his "ideal of intellectual veracity," "his Gallic instinct for
consistency," to the creed of his own party. When confronted by the
fabric of traditional Jeffersonian Democracy, his mind, like that of so
many other Democrats, is immediately lulled into repose. In one of his
speeches, for instance, he has referred to his party as essentially the
party of "liberal ideas," and he was much praised by the anti-Hearst
newspapers for this consoling description; but it can hardly be
considered as an illustration of Mr. Jerome's "intellectual veracity."
If by "liberal ideas" one means economic and political heresies, such as
nullification, "squatter" sovereignty, secession, free silver, and
occasional projects of repudiation, then, indeed, the Democracy has
been a party of "liberal ideas." But heresies of this kind are not the
expression of liberal thought; they are the result of various phases of
local political and economic discontent. When a group of Democrats
become "liberal," it usually means that they are doing a bad business,
or are suffering from a real or supposed injury. But if by "liberal" we
mean, not merely radical and subversive, but progressive national ideas,
the application of the adjective to the Democratic party is attended
with certain difficulties. In the course of American history what
measure of legislation expressive of a progressive national idea can be
attributed to the Democratic party? At times it has been possessed by
certain revolutionary tendencies; at other times it has been steeped in
Bourbon conservatism. At present it is alternating between one and the
other, according to the needs and opportunities of the immediate
political situation. It is trying to find room within its hospitable
folds for both Alton B. Parker and William J. Bryan, and it has such an
appetite for inconsistencies that it may succeed. But in that event one
would expect some symptoms of uneasiness on the part of a Democratic
reformer with "Gallic clearness and consistency of mind, with an
instinct for consistency, and a hatred of hypocrisy."



The truth is that Mr. William R. Hearst offers his countrymen a fair
expression of the kind of "liberal ideas" proper to the creed of
democracy. In respect to patriotism and personal character Mr. Bryan is
a better example of the representative Democrat than is Mr. Hearst; but
in the tendency and spirit of his agitation for reform Hearst more
completely reveals the true nature of Democratic "liberalism." When Mr.
Lincoln Steffens asserts on the authority of the "man of mystery"
himself that one of Hearst's mysterious actions has been a profound and
searching study of Jeffersonian doctrine, I can almost bring myself to
believe the assertion. The radicalism of Hearst is simply an
unscrupulous expression of the radical element in the Jeffersonian
tradition. He bases his whole agitation upon the sacred idea of equal
rights for all and special privileges for none, and he indignantly
disclaims the taint of socialism. His specific remedial proposals do not
differ essentially from those of Mr. Bryan. His methods of agitation and
his popular catch words are an ingenious adaptation of Jefferson to the
needs of political "yellow journalism." He is always an advocate of the
popular fact. He always detests the unpopular word. He approves
expansion, but abhors imperialism. He welcomes any opportunity for war,
but execrates militarism. He wants the Federal government to crush the
trusts by the most drastic legislation, but he is opposed to
centralization. The institutional reforms which he favors all of them
look in the direction of destroying what remains of judicial, executive,
or legislative independence. The whole programme is as incoherent as is
that of Mr. Bryan; but incoherence is the least of his faults. Mr.
Bryan's inconsistencies are partly redeemed by his genuine patriotism.
The distracting effect of Hearst's inconsistencies is intensified by his
factiousness. He is more and less than a radical. He is in temper a
revolutionist. The disgust and distrust which he excites is the issue of
a wholesome political and social instinct, for the political instincts
of the American people are often much sounder than their ideas. Hearst
and Hearstism is a living menace to the orderly process of reform and to
American national integrity.

Hearst is revolutionary in spirit, because the principle of equal rights
itself, in the hand either of a fanatic or a demagogue, can be converted
into a revolutionary principle. He considers, as do all reformers, the
prevalent inequalities of economic and political power to be violations
of that principle. He also believes in the truth of American political
individualism, and in the adequacy, except in certain minor respects, of
our systems of inherited institutions. How, then, did these inequalities
come about? How did the Democratic political system of Jefferson and
Jackson issue in undemocratic inequalities? The answer is obviously (and
it is an answer drawn by other reformers) that these inequalities are
the work of wicked and unscrupulous men. Financial or political pirates
of one kind or another have been preying on the guileless public, and by
means of their aggressions have perversely violated the supreme law of
equal rights. These men must be exposed; they must be denounced as
enemies of the people; they must be held up to public execration and
scorn; they must become the objects of a righteous popular vengeance.
Such are the feelings and ideas which possess the followers of Hearst,
and on the basis of which Hearst himself acts and talks. An apparent
justification is reached for a systematic vilification of the trusts,
the "predatory" millionaires and their supporters; and such vilification
has become Hearst's peculiar stock in trade. In effect he treats his
opponents very much as the French revolutionary leaders treated their
opponents, so that in case the conflict should become still more
embittered, his "reformed" democracy may resemble the purified republic
of which Robespierre and St. Just dreamed when they sent Desmoulins and
Danton to the guillotine. When he embodies such ideas and betrays such a
spirit, the disputed point as to Hearst's sincerity sinks into
insignificance. A fanatic sincerely possessed by these ideas is a more
dangerous menace to American national integrity and the Promise of
American democracy than the sheerest demagogue.

The logic of Hearst's agitation is analogous to the logic of the
anti-slavery agitation in 1830, and Hearstism is merely Abolitionism
applied to a new material and translated into rowdy journalism. The
Abolitionists, believing as they did, that the institution of slavery
violated an abstract principle of political justice, felt thereby fully
authorized to vilify the Southern slaveholders as far as the resources
of the English language would permit. They attempted to remedy one
injustice by committing another injustice; and by the violence of their
methods they almost succeeded in tearing apart the good fabric of our
national life. Hearst is headed in precisely the same direction. He is
doing a radical injustice to a large body of respectable American
citizens who, like Hearst himself, have merely shown a certain lack of
scruple in taking advantage of the opportunities which the American
political and economic system offers, and who have been distinguished
rather by peculiar ability and energy than by peculiar selfishness. On a
rigid interpretation of the principle of equal rights he may be
justified in holding them up to public execration, just as the
Abolitionists, on the principle that the right to freedom was a Divine
law, might be justified in vilifying the Southerners. But as a matter of
fact we know that personally neither the millionaire nor the
slave-holder deserves such denunciation; and we ought to know that the
prejudices and passions provoked by language of this kind violate the
essential principle both of nationality and democracy. The foundation of
nationality is mutual confidence and fair dealing, and the aim of
democracy is a better quality of human nature effected by a higher type
of human association. Hearstism, like Abolitionism, is the work of
unbalanced and vindictive men, and increases enormously the difficulty
of the wise and effective cure of the contemporary evils.

Yet Hearst, as little as the millionaires he denounces, is not entirely
responsible for himself. Such a responsibility would be too heavy for
the shoulders of one man. He has been given to the American people for
their sins in politics and economics. His opponents may scold him as
much as they please. They may call him a demagogue and a charlatan; they
may accuse him of corrupting the public mind and pandering to degrading
passions; they may declare that his abusive attacks on the late Mr.
McKinley were at least indirectly the cause of that gentleman's
assassination; they may, in short, behave and talk as if he were a much
more dangerous public enemy than the most "tainted" millionaire or the
most corrupt politician. Nevertheless they cannot deprive him or his
imitators of the standing to be obtained from the proclamation of a
rigorous interpretation of the principle of equal rights. Hearst has
understood that principle better than the other reformers, or the
conservatives who claim its authority. He has exhibited its
disintegrating and revolutionary implications; and he has convinced a
large, though fluctuating, following that he is only fighting for
justice. He personally may or may not have run his course, but it is
manifest that his peculiar application of the principle of equal rights
to our contemporary economic and political problems has come to stay. As
long as that principle keeps its present high position in the hierarchy
of American political ideas, just so long will it afford authority and
countenance to agitators like Hearst. He is not a passing danger, which
will disappear in case the truly Herculean efforts to discredit him
personally continue to be successful. Just as slavery was the ghost in
the House of the American Democracy during the Middle Period, so
Hearstism is and will remain the ghost in the House of Reform. And the
incantation by which it will be permanently exorcised has not yet been
publicly phrased.



It is fortunate, consequently, that one reformer can be named whose work
has tended to give reform the dignity of a constructive mission. Mr.
Theodore Roosevelt's behavior at least is not dictated by negative
conception of reform. During the course of an extremely active and
varied political career he has, indeed, been all kinds of a reformer.
His first appearance in public life, as a member of the Legislature of
New York, coincided with an outbreak of dissatisfaction over the charter
of New York City; and Mr. Roosevelt's name was identified with the bills
which began the revision of that very much revised instrument. Somewhat
later, as one of the Federal Commissioners, Mr. Roosevelt made a most
useful contribution to the more effective enforcement of the Civil
Service Law. Still later, as Police Commissioner of New York City, he
had his experience of reform by means of unregenerate instruments and
administrative lies. Then, as Governor of the State of New York, he was
instrumental in securing the passage of a law taxing franchises as real
property and thus faced for the first time and in a preliminary way the
many-headed problem of the trusts. Finally, when an accident placed him
in the Presidential chair, he consistently used the power of the Federal
government and his own influence and popularity for the purpose of
regulating the corporations in what he believed to be the public
interest. No other American has had anything like so varied and so
intimate an acquaintance with the practical work of reform as has Mr.
Roosevelt; and when, after more than twenty years of such experience, he
adds to the work of administrative reform the additional task of
political and economic reconstruction, his originality cannot be
considered the result of innocence. Mr. Roosevelt's reconstructive
policy does not go very far in purpose or achievement, but limited as it
is, it does tend to give the agitation for reform the benefit of a much
more positive significance and a much more dignified task.

Mr. Roosevelt has imparted a higher and more positive significance to
reform, because throughout his career he has consistently stood for an
idea, from which the idea of reform cannot be separated--namely, the
national idea. He has, indeed, been even more of a nationalist than he
has a reformer. His most important literary work was a history of the
beginning of American national expansion. He has treated all public
questions from a vigorous, even from an extreme, national standpoint. No
American politician was more eager to assert the national interest
against an actual or a possible foreign enemy; and not even William R.
Hearst was more resolute to involve his country in a war with Spain.
Fortunately, however, his aggressive nationalism did not, like that of
so many other statesmen, faint from exhaustion as soon as there were no
more foreign enemies to defy. He was the first political leader of the
American people to identify the national principle with an ideal of
reform. He was the first to realize that an American statesman could no
longer really represent the national interest without becoming a
reformer. Mr. Grover Cleveland showed a glimmering of the necessity of
this affiliation; but he could not carry it far, because, as a sincere
traditional Democrat, he could not reach a clear understanding of the
meaning either of reform or of nationality. Mr. Roosevelt, however,
divined that an American statesman who eschewed or evaded the work of
reform came inevitably to represent either special and local interests
or else a merely Bourbon political tradition, and in this way was
disqualified for genuinely national service. He divined that the
national principle involved a continual process of internal reformation;
and that the reforming idea implied the necessity of more efficient
national organization. Consequently, when he became President of the
United States and the official representative of the national interest
of the country, he attained finally his proper sphere of action. He
immediately began the salutary and indispensable work of nationalizing
the reform movement.

The nationalization of reform endowed the movement with new vitality and
meaning. What Mr. Roosevelt really did was to revive the Hamiltonian
ideal of constructive national legislation. During the whole of the
nineteenth century that ideal, while by no means dead, was disabled by
associations and conditions from active and efficient service. Not until
the end of the Spanish War was a condition of public feeling created,
which made it possible to revive Hamiltonianism. That war and its
resulting policy of extra-territorial expansion, so far from hindering
the process of domestic amelioration, availed, from the sheer force of
the national aspirations it aroused, to give a tremendous impulse to the
work of national reform. It made Americans more sensitive to a national
idea and more conscious of their national responsibilities, and it
indirectly helped to place in the Presidential chair the man who, as I
have said, represented both the national idea and the spirit of reform.
The sincere and intelligent combination of those two ideas is bound to
issue in the Hamiltonian practice of constructive national legislation.

Of course Theodore Roosevelt is Hamiltonian with a difference.
Hamilton's fatal error consisted in his attempt to make the Federal
organization not merely the effective engine of the national interest,
but also a bulwark against the rising tide of democracy. The new
Federalism or rather new Nationalism is not in any way inimical to
democracy. On the contrary, not only does Mr. Roosevelt believe himself
to be an unimpeachable democrat in theory, but he has given his
fellow-countrymen a useful example of the way in which a college-bred
and a well-to-do man can become by somewhat forcible means a good
practical democrat. The whole tendency of his programme is to give a
democratic meaning and purpose to the Hamiltonian tradition and method.
He proposes to use the power and the resources of the Federal government
for the purpose of making his countrymen a more complete democracy in
organization and practice; but he does not make these proposals, as Mr.
Bryan does, gingerly and with a bad conscience. He makes them with a
frank and full confidence in an efficient national organization as the
necessary agent of the national interest and purpose. He has completely
abandoned that part of the traditional democratic creed which tends to
regard the assumption by the government of responsibility, and its
endowment with power adequate to the responsibility as inherently
dangerous and undemocratic. He realizes that any efficiency of
organization and delegation of power which is necessary to the
promotion of the American national interest must be helpful to
democracy. More than any other American political leader, except
Lincoln, his devotion both to the national and to the democratic ideas
is thorough-going and absolute.

As the founder of a new national democracy, then, his influence and his
work have tended to emancipate American democracy from its Jeffersonian
bondage. They have tended to give a new meaning to popular government by
endowing it with larger powers, more positive responsibilities, and a
better faith in human excellence. Jefferson believed theoretically in
human goodness, but in actual practice his faith in human nature was
exceedingly restricted. Just as the older aristocratic theory had been
to justify hereditary political leadership by considering the ordinary
man as necessarily irresponsible and incapable, so the early French
democrats, and Jefferson after them, made faith in the people equivalent
to a profound suspicion of responsible official leadership. Exceptional
power merely offered exceptional opportunities for abuse. He refused, as
far as he could, to endow special men, even when chosen by the people,
with any opportunity to promote the public welfare proportionate to
their abilities. So far as his influence has prevailed the government of
the country was organized on the basis of a cordial distrust of the man
of exceptional competence, training, or independence as a public
official. To the present day this distrust remains the sign by which the
demoralizing influence of the Jeffersonian democratic creed is most
plainly to be traced. So far as it continues to be influential it
destroys one necessary condition of responsible and efficient
government, and it is bound to paralyze any attempt to make the national
organization adequate to the promotion of the national interest. Mr.
Roosevelt has exhibited his genuinely national spirit in nothing so
clearly as in his endeavor to give to men of special ability, training,
and eminence a better opportunity to serve the public. He has not only
appointed such men to office, but he has tried to supply them with an
administrative machinery which would enable them to use their abilities
to the best public advantage; and he has thereby shown a faith in human
nature far more edifying and far more genuinely democratic than that of
Jefferson or Jackson.

Mr. Roosevelt, however, has still another title to distinction among the
brethren of reform. He has not only nationalized the movement, and
pointed it in the direction of a better conception of democracy, but he
has rallied to its hammer the ostensible, if not the very enthusiastic,
support of the Republican party. He has restored that party to some
sense of its historic position and purpose. As the party which before
the War had insisted on making the nation answerable for the solution of
the slavery problem, it has inherited the tradition of national
responsibility for the national good; but it was rapidly losing all
sense of its historic mission, and, like the Whigs, was constantly using
its principle and its prestige as a cloak for the aggrandizement of
special interests. At its worst it had, indeed, earned some claim on the
allegiance of patriotic Americans by its defense of the fiscal system of
the country against Mr. Bryan's well-meant but dangerous attack, and by
its acceptance after the Spanish War of the responsibilities of
extra-territorial expansion; but there was grave danger that its
alliance with the "vested" interests would make it unfaithful to its
past as the party of responsible national action. It escaped such a fate
only by an extremely narrow margin; and the fact that it did escape is
due chiefly to the personal influence of Theodore Roosevelt. The
Republican party is still very far from being a wholly sincere agent of
the national reform interest. Its official leadership is opposed to
reform; and it cannot be made to take a single step in advance except
under compulsion. But Mr. Roosevelt probably prevented it from drifting
into the position of an anti-reform party--which if it had happened
would have meant its ruin, and would have damaged the cause of national
reform. A Republican party which was untrue to the principle of national
responsibility would have no reason for existence; and the Democratic
party, as we have seen, cannot become the party of national
responsibility without being faithless to its own creed.



Before finishing this account of Mr. Roosevelt's services as a reformer,
and his place in the reforming movement, a serious objection on the
score of consistency must be fairly faced. Even admitting that Mr.
Roosevelt has dignified reform by identifying it with a programme of
constructive national legislation, does the fundamental purpose of his
reforming legislation differ essentially from that of Mr. Bryan or Mr.
Hearst? How can he be called the founder of a new national democracy
when the purpose of democracy from his point of view remains
substantially the Jeffersonian ideal of equal rights for all and special
privileges for none? If, in one respect, he has been emancipating
American democracy from the Jeffersonian bondage, he has in another
respect been tightening the bonds, because he has continued to identify
democracy with the legal constitution of a system of insurgent,
ambiguous, and indiscriminate individual rights.

The validity of such a criticism from the point of view of this book
cannot be disputed. The figure of the "Square Deal," which Mr. Roosevelt
has flourished so vigorously in public addresses, is a translation into
the American vernacular of the Jeffersonian principle of equal rights;
and in Mr. Roosevelt's dissertations upon the American ideal he has
expressly disclaimed the notion of any more positive definition of the
purpose of American democracy. Moreover, his favorite figure gives a
sinister application to his assertions that the principle of equal
rights is being violated. If the American people are not getting a
"Square Deal," it must mean that they are having the cards stacked
against them; and in that case the questions of paramount importance
are: Who are stacking the cards? And how can they be punished? These are
precisely the questions which Hearst is always asking and Hearstism is
seeking to answer. Neither has Mr. Roosevelt himself entirely escaped
the misleading effects of his own figure. He has too frequently talked
as if his opponents deserved to be treated as dishonest sharpers; and he
has sometimes behaved as if his suspicions of unfair play on their part
were injuring the coolness of his judgment. But at bottom and in the
long run Mr. Roosevelt is too fair-minded a man and too patriotic a
citizen to become much the victim of his dangerous figure of the "Square
Deal." He inculcates for the most part in his political sermons a
spirit, not of suspicion and hatred, but of mutual forbearance and
confidence; and his programme of reform attaches more importance to a
revision of the rules of the game than to the treatment of the winners
under the old rules as one would treat a dishonest gambler.

In truth, Mr. Roosevelt has been building either better than he knows or
better than he cares to admit. The real meaning of his programme is more
novel and more radical than he himself has publicly proclaimed. It
implies a conception of democracy and its purpose very different from
the Jeffersonian doctrine of equal rights. Evidences of deep antagonism
can be discerned between the Hamiltonian method and spirit, represented
by Mr. Roosevelt, and a conception of democracy which makes it consist
fundamentally in the practical realization of any system of equal
rights. The distrust with which thorough-going Jeffersonians regard Mr.
Roosevelt's nationalizing programme is a justifiable distrust, because
efficient and responsible national organization would be dangerous
either to or in the sort of democracy which the doctrine of equal rights
encourages--a democracy of suspicious discontent, of selfish claims, of
factious agitation, and of individual and class aggression. A thoroughly
responsible and efficient national organization would be dangerous in
such a democracy, because it might well be captured by some combination
of local individual or class interests; and the only effective way to
guard against such a danger is to substitute for the Jeffersonian
democracy of individual rights a democracy of individual and social
improvement. A democracy of individual rights, that is, must either
suffer reconstruction by the logic of a process of efficient national
organization, or else it may pervert that organization to the service of
its own ambiguous, contradictory, and in the end subversive political
purposes. A better justification for these statements must be reserved
for the succeeding chapter; but in the meantime I will take the risk
asserting that Mr. Roosevelt's nationalism really implies a democracy of
individual and social improvement. His nationalizing programme has in
effect questioned the value of certain fundamental American ideas, and
if Mr. Roosevelt has not himself outgrown these ideas, his misreading of
his own work need not be a matter of surprise. It is what one would
expect from the prophet of the Strenuous Life.

Mr. Roosevelt has done little to encourage candid and consistent
thinking. He has preached the doctrine that the paramount and almost the
exclusive duty of the American citizen consists in being a
sixty-horse-power moral motor-car. In his own career his intelligence
has been the handmaid of his will; and the balance between those
faculties, so finely exemplified in Abraham Lincoln, has been destroyed
by sheer exuberance of moral energy. But although his intelligence is
merely the servant of his will, it is at least the willing and competent
servant of a single-minded master. If it has not been leavened by the
rigorous routine of its work, neither has it been cheapened; and the
service has constantly been growing better worth while. During the
course of his public career, his original integrity of character
has been intensified by the stress of his labors, his achievements,
his experiences, and his exhortations. An individuality such as
his--wrought with so much consistent purpose out of much variety of
experience--brings with it an intellectual economy of its own and a
sincere and useful sort of intellectual enlightenment. He may be figured
as a Thor wielding with power and effect a sledge-hammer in the cause of
national righteousness; and the sympathetic observer, who is not stunned
by the noise of the hammer, may occasionally be rewarded by the sight of
something more illuminating than a piece of rebellious metal beaten into
shape. He may be rewarded by certain unexpected gleams of insight, as if
the face of the sledge-hammer were worn bright by hard service and
flashed in the sunlight. Mr. Roosevelt sees as far ahead and as much as
he needs to see. He has an almost infallible sense of where to strike
the next important blow, and even during the ponderous labors of the day
he prudently and confidently lays out the task of to-morrow. Thus while
he has contributed to the liberation of American intelligence chiefly in
the sense that he has given his fellow-countrymen something to think
about, he is very far from being a blind, narrow, or unenlightened

Doubtless the only practical road of advance at present is laborious,
slow, and not too enlightened. For the time being the hammer is a
mightier weapon than the sword or the pen. Americans have the habit of
action rather than of thought. Like their forbears in England, they
begin to do things, because their common sense tells them that such
things have to be done, and then at a later date think over the
accomplished fact. A man in public life who told them that their "noble
national theory" was ambiguous and distracting, and that many of their
popular catchwords were false and exercised a mischievous influence on
public affairs, would do so at his own personal risk and cost. The task
of plain speaking must be suggested and justified by the achievement of
a considerable body of national reconstructive legislation, and must
even then devolve largely upon men who have from the political point of
view little to gain or to lose by their apparent heresies. The fact,
however, that a responsible politician like Mr. Roosevelt must be an
example more of moral than of intellectual independence, increases
rather than diminishes the eventual importance of consistent thinking
and plain speaking as essential parts of the work of political reform. A
reforming movement, whose supporters never understand its own proper
meaning and purpose, is sure in the end to go astray. It is all very
well for Englishmen to do their thinking after the event, because
tradition lies at the basis of their national life. But Americans, as a
nation, are consecrated to the realization of a group of ideas; and
ideas to be fruitful must square both with the facts to which they are
applied and with one another. Mr. Roosevelt and his hammer must be
accepted gratefully, as the best available type of national reformer;
but the day may and should come when a national reformer will appear who
can be figured more in the guise of St. Michael, armed with a flaming
sword and winged for flight.




The best method of approaching a critical reconstruction of American
political ideas will be by means of an analysis of the meaning of
democracy. A clear popular understanding of the contents of the
democratic principle is obviously of the utmost practical political
importance to the American people. Their loyalty to the idea of
democracy, as they understand it, cannot be questioned. Nothing of any
considerable political importance is done or left undone in the United
States, unless such action or inaction can be plausibly defended on
democratic grounds; and the only way to secure for the American people
the benefit of a comprehensive and consistent political policy will be
to derive it from a comprehensive and consistent conception of

Democracy as most frequently understood is essentially and exhaustively
defined as a matter of popular government; and such a definition raises
at once a multitude of time-honored, but by no means superannuated,
controversies. The constitutional liberals in England, in France, and in
this country have always objected to democracy as so understood, because
of the possible sanction it affords for the substitution of a popular
despotism in the place of the former royal or oligarchic despotisms.
From their point of view individual liberty is the greatest blessing
which can be secured to a people by a government; and individual liberty
can be permanently guaranteed only in case political liberties are in
theory and practice subordinated to civil liberties. Popular political
institutions constitute a good servant, but a bad master. When
introduced in moderation they keep the government of a country in close
relation with well-informed public opinion, which is a necessary
condition of political sanitation; but if carried too far, such
institutions compromise the security of the individual and the integrity
of the state. They erect a power in the state, which in theory is
unlimited and which constantly tends in practice to dispense with
restrictions. A power which is theoretically absolute is under no
obligation to respect the rights either of individuals or minorities;
and sooner or later such power will be used for the purpose of opposing
the individual. The only way to secure individual liberty is,
consequently, to organize a state in which the Sovereign power is
deprived of any national excuse or legal opportunity of violating
certain essential individual rights.

The foregoing criticism of democracy, defined as popular government, may
have much practical importance; but there are objections to it on the
score of logic. It is not a criticism of a certain conception of
democracy, so much as of democracy itself. Ultimate responsibility for
the government of a community must reside somewhere. If the single
monarch is practically dethroned, as he is by these liberal critics of
democracy, some Sovereign power must be provided to take his place. In
England Parliament, by means of a steady encroachment on the royal
prerogatives, has gradually become Sovereign; but other countries, such
as France and the United States, which have wholly dispensed with
royalty, cannot, even if they would, make a legislative body Sovereign
by the simple process of allowing it to usurp power once enjoyed by the
Crown. France did, indeed, after it had finally dispensed with
Legitimacy, make two attempts to found governments in which the theory
of popular Sovereignty was evaded. The Orleans monarchy, for instance,
through the mouths of its friends, denied Sovereignty to the people,
without being able to claim it for the King; and this insecurity of its
legal framework was an indirect cause of a violent explosion of
effective popular Sovereignty in 1848. The apologists for the Second
Empire admitted the theory of a Sovereign people, but claimed that the
Sovereign power could be safely and efficiently used only in case it
were delegated to one Napoleon III--a view the correctness of which the
results of the Imperial policy eventually tended to damage. There is in
point of fact no logical escape from a theory of popular
Sovereignty--once the theory of divinely appointed royal Sovereignty is
rejected. An escape can be made, of course, as in England, by means of a
compromise and a legal fiction; and such an escape can be fully
justified from the English national point of view; but countries which
have rejected the royal and aristocratic tradition are forbidden this
means of escape--if escape it is. They are obliged to admit the doctrine
of popular Sovereignty. They are obliged to proclaim a theory of
unlimited popular powers.

To be sure, a democracy may impose rules of action upon itself--as the
American democracy did in accepting the Federal Constitution. But in
adopting the Federal Constitution the American people did not abandon
either its responsibilities or rights as Sovereign. Difficult as it may
be to escape from the legal framework defined in the Constitution, that
body of law in theory remains merely an instrument which was made for
the people and which if necessary can and will be modified. A people, to
whom was denied the ultimate responsibility for its welfare, would not
have obtained the prime condition of genuine liberty. Individual freedom
is important, but more important still is the freedom of a whole people
to dispose of its own destiny; and I do not see how the existence of
such an ultimate popular political freedom and responsibility can be
denied by any one who has rejected the theory of a divinely appointed
political order. The fallibility of human nature being what it is, the
practical application of this theory will have its grave dangers; but
these dangers are only evaded and postponed by a failure to place
ultimate political responsibility where it belongs. While a country in
the position of Germany or Great Britain may be fully justified from the
point of view of its national tradition, in merely compromising with
democracy, other countries, such as the United States and France, which
have earned the right to dispense with these compromises, are at least
building their political structure on the real and righteous source of
political authority. Democracy may mean something more than a
theoretically absolute popular government, but it assuredly cannot mean
anything less.

If, however, democracy does not mean anything less than popular
Sovereignty, it assuredly does mean something more. It must at least
mean an expression of the Sovereign will, which will not contradict and
destroy the continuous existence of its own Sovereign power. Several
times during the political history of France in the nineteenth century,
the popular will has expressed itself in a manner adverse to popular
political institutions. Assemblies have been elected by universal
suffrage, whose tendencies have been reactionary and undemocratic, and
who have been supported in this reactionary policy by an effective
public opinion. Or the French people have by means of a plebiscite
delegated their Sovereign power to an Imperial dictator, whose whole
political system was based on a deep suspicion of the source of his own
authority. A particular group of political institutions or course of
political action may, then, be representative of the popular will, and
yet may be undemocratic. Popular Sovereignty is self-contradictory,
unless it is expressed in a manner favorable to its own perpetuity and

The assertion of the doctrine of popular Sovereignty is, consequently,
rather the beginning than the end of democracy. There can be no
democracy where the people do not rule; but government by the people is
not necessarily democratic. The popular will must in a democratic state
be expressed somehow in the interest of democracy itself; and we have
not traveled very far towards a satisfactory conception of democracy
until this democratic purpose has received some definition. In what way
must a democratic state behave in order to contribute to its own

The ordinary American answer to this question is contained in the
assertion of Lincoln, that our government is "dedicated to the
proposition that all men are created equal." Lincoln's phrasing of the
principle was due to the fact that the obnoxious and undemocratic system
of negro slavery was uppermost in his mind when he made his Gettysburg
address; but he meant by his assertion of the principle of equality
substantially what is meant to-day by the principle of "equal rights for
all and special privileges for none." Government by the people has its
natural and logical complement in government for the people. Every state
with a legal framework must grant certain rights to individuals; and
every state, in so far as it is efficient, must guarantee to the
individual that his rights, as legally defined, are secure. But an
essentially democratic state consists in the circumstance that all
citizens enjoy these rights equally. If any citizen or any group of
citizens enjoys by virtue of the law any advantage over their
fellow-citizens, then the most sacred principle of democracy is
violated. On the other hand, a community in which no man or no group of
men are granted by law any advantage over their fellow-citizens is the
type of the perfect and fruitful democratic state. Society is organized
politically for the benefit of all the people. Such an organization may
permit radical differences among individuals in the opportunities and
possessions they actually enjoy; but no man would be able to impute his
own success or failure to the legal framework of society. Every citizen
would be getting a "Square Deal."

Such is the idea of the democratic state, which the majority of good
Americans believe to be entirely satisfactory. It should endure
indefinitely, because it seeks to satisfy every interest essential to
associated life. The interest of the individual is protected, because of
the liberties he securely enjoys. The general social interest is equally
well protected, because the liberties enjoyed by one or by a few are
enjoyed by all. Thus the individual and the social interests are
automatically harmonized. The virile democrat in pursuing his own
interest "under the law" is contributing effectively to the interest of
society, while the social interest consists precisely in the promotion
of these individual interests, in so far as they can be equally
exercised. The divergent demands of the individual and the social
interest can be reconciled by grafting the principle of equality on the
thrifty tree of individual rights, and the ripe fruit thereof can be
gathered merely by shaking the tree.

It must be immediately admitted, also, that the principle of equal
rights, like the principle of ultimate popular political responsibility
is the expression of an essential aspect of democracy. There is no room
for permanent legal privileges in a democratic state. Such privileges
may be and frequently are defended on many excellent grounds. They may
unquestionably contribute for a time to social and economic efficiency
and to individual independence. But whatever advantage may be derived
from such permanent discriminations must be abandoned by a democracy. It
cannot afford to give any one class of its citizens a permanent
advantage or to others a permanent grievance. It ceases to be a
democracy, just as soon as any permanent privileges are conferred by its
institutions or its laws; and this equality of right and absence of
permanent privilege is the expression of a fundamental social interest.

But the principle of equal rights, like the principle of ultimate
popular political responsibility, is not sufficient; and because of its
insufficiency results in certain dangerous ambiguities and
self-contradictions. American political thinkers have always repudiated
the idea that by equality of rights they meant anything like equality of
performance or power. The utmost varieties of individual power and
ability are bound to exist and are bound to bring about many different
levels of individual achievement. Democracy both recognizes the right of
the individual to use his powers to the utmost, and encourages him to do
so by offering a fair field and, in cases of success, an abundant
reward. The democratic principle requires an equal start in the race,
while expecting at the same time an unequal finish. But Americans who
talk in this way seem wholly blind to the fact that under a legal system
which holds private property sacred there may be equal rights, but there
cannot possibly be any equal opportunities for exercising such rights.
The chance which the individual has to compete with his fellows and take
a prize in the race is vitally affected by material conditions over
which he has no control. It is as if the competitor in a Marathon cross
country run were denied proper nourishment or proper training, and was
obliged to toe the mark against rivals who had every benefit of food and
discipline. Under such conditions he is not as badly off as if he were
entirely excluded from the race. With the aid of exceptional strength
and intelligence he may overcome the odds against him and win out. But
it would be absurd to claim, because all the rivals toed the same mark,
that a man's victory or defeat depended exclusively on his own efforts.
Those who have enjoyed the benefits of wealth and thorough education
start with an advantage which can be overcome only in very exceptional
men,--men so exceptional, in fact, that the average competitor without
such benefits feels himself disqualified for the contest.

Because of the ambiguity indicated above, different people with
different interests, all of them good patriotic Americans, draw very
different inferences from the doctrine of equal rights. The man of
conservative ideas and interests means by the rights, which are to be
equally exercised, only those rights which are defined and protected by
the law--the more fundamental of which are the rights to personal
freedom and to private property. The man of radical ideas, on the other
hand, observing, as he may very clearly, that these equal rights cannot
possibly be made really equivalent to equal opportunities, bases upon
the same doctrine a more or less drastic criticism of the existing
economic and social order and sometimes of the motives of its
beneficiaries and conservators. The same principle, differently
interpreted, is the foundation of American political orthodoxy and
American political heterodoxy. The same measure of reforming
legislation, such as the new Inter-state Commerce Law, seems to one
party a wholly inadequate attempt to make the exercise of individual
rights a little more equal, while it seems to others an egregious
violation of the principle itself. What with reforming legislation on
the one hand and the lack of it on the other, the once sweet air of the
American political mansion is soured by complaints. Privileges and
discriminations seem to lurk in every political and economic corner. The
"people" are appealing to the state to protect them against the
usurpations of the corporations and the Bosses. The government is
appealing to the courts to protect the shippers against the railroads.
The corporations are appealing to the Federal courts to protect them
from the unfair treatment of state legislatures. Employers are fighting
trades-unionism, because it denies equal rights to their employers. The
unionists are entreating public opinion to protect them against the
unfairness of "government by injunction." To the free trader the whole
protectionist system seems a flagrant discrimination on behalf of a
certain portion of the community. Everybody seems to be clamoring for a
"Square Deal" but nobody seems to be getting it.

The ambiguity of the principle of equal rights and the resulting
confusion of counsel are so obvious that there must be some good reason
for their apparently unsuspected existence. The truth is that Americans
have not readjusted their political ideas to the teaching of their
political and economic experience. For a couple of generations after
Jefferson had established the doctrine of equal rights as the
fundamental principle of the American democracy, the ambiguity resident
in the application of the doctrine was concealed. The Jacksonian
Democrats, for instance, who were constantly nosing the ground for a
scent of unfair treatment, could discover no example of political
privileges, except the continued retention of their offices by
experienced public servants; and the only case of economic privilege of
which they were certain was that of the National Bank. The fact is, of
course, that the great majority of Americans were getting a "Square
Deal" as long as the economic opportunities of a new country had not
been developed and appropriated. Individual and social interest did
substantially coincide as long as so many opportunities were open to the
poor and untrained man, and as long as the public interest demanded
first of all the utmost celerity of economic development. But, as we
have seen in a preceding chapter, the economic development of the
country resulted inevitably in a condition which demanded on the part of
the successful competitor either increasing capital, improved training,
or a larger amount of ability and energy. With the advent of comparative
economic and social maturity, the exercise of certain legal rights
became substantially equivalent to the exercise of a privilege; and if
equality of opportunity was to be maintained, it could not be done by
virtue of non-interference. The demands of the "Higher Law" began to
diverge from the results of the actual legal system.

Public opinion is, of course, extremely loth to admit that there exists
any such divergence of individual and social interest, or any such
contradiction in the fundamental American principle. Reformers no less
than conservatives have been doggedly determined to place some other
interpretation upon the generally recognized abuses; and the
interpretation on which they have fastened is that some of the victors
have captured too many prizes, because they did not play fair. There is
just enough truth in this interpretation to make it plausible, although,
as we have seen, the most flagrant examples of apparent cheating were
due as much to equivocal rules as to any fraudulent intention. But
orthodox public opinion is obliged by the necessities of its own
situation to exaggerate the truth of its favorite interpretation; and
any such exaggeration is attended with grave dangers, precisely because
the ambiguous nature of the principle itself gives a similar ambiguity
to its violations. The cheating is understood as disobedience to the
actual law, or as violation of a Higher Law, according to the interests
and preconceptions of the different reformers; but however it is
understood, they believe themselves to be upholding some kind of a Law,
and hence endowed with some kind of a sacred mission.

Thus the want of integrity in what is supposed to be the formative
principle of democracy results, as it did before the Civil War, in a
division of the actual substance of the nation. Men naturally disposed
to be indignant at people with whom they disagree come to believe that
their indignation is comparable to that of the Lord. Men naturally
disposed to be envious and suspicious of others more fortunate than
themselves come to confuse their suspicions with a duty to the society.
Demagogues can appeal to the passions aroused by this prevailing sense
of unfair play for the purpose of getting themselves elected to office
or for the purpose of passing blundering measures of repression. The
type of admirable and popular democrat ceases to be a statesman,
attempting to bestow unity and health on the body politic by prescribing
more wholesome habits of living. He becomes instead a sublimated
District Attorney, whose duty it is to punish violations both of the
actual and the "Higher Law." Thus he is figured as a kind of an avenging
angel; but (as it happens) he is an avenging angel who can find little
to avenge and who has no power of flight. There is an enormous
discrepancy between the promises of these gentlemen and their
performances, no matter whether they occupy an executive office, the
editorial chairs of yellow journals, or merely the place of public
prosecutor; and it sometimes happens that public prosecutors who have
played the part of avenging angels before election, are, as Mr. William
Travers Jerome knows, themselves prosecuted after a few years of office
by their aggrieved constituents. The truth is that these gentlemen are
confronted by a task which is in a large measure impossible, and which,
so far as possible, would be either disappointing or dangerous in its

Hence it is that continued loyalty to a contradictory principle is
destructive of a wholesome public sentiment and opinion. A wholesome
public opinion in a democracy is one which keeps a democracy sound and
whole; and it cannot prevail unless the individuals composing it
recognize mutual ties and responsibilities which lie deeper than any
differences of interest and idea. No formula whose effect on public
opinion is not binding and healing and unifying has any substantial
claim to consideration as the essential and formative democratic idea.
Belief in the principle of equal rights does not bind, heal, and unify
public opinion. Its effect rather is confusing, distracting, and at
worst, disintegrating. A democratic political organization has no
immunity from grievances. They are a necessary result of a complicated
and changing industrial and social organism. What is good for one
generation will often be followed by consequences that spell deprivation
for the next. What is good for one man or one class of men will bring
ills to other men or classes of men. What is good for the community as a
whole may mean temporary loss and a sense of injustice to a minority.
All grievances from any cause should receive full expression in a
democracy, but, inasmuch as the righteously discontented must be always
with us, the fundamental democratic principle should, above all, counsel
mutual forbearance and loyalty. The principle of equal rights encourages
mutual suspicion and disloyalty. It tends to attribute individual and
social ills, for which general moral, economic, and social causes are
usually in large measure responsible, to individual wrong-doing; and in
this way it arouses and intensifies that personal and class hatred,
which never in any society lies far below the surface. Men who have
grievances are inflamed into anger and resentment. In claiming what they
believe to be their rights, they are in their own opinion acting on
behalf not merely of their interests, but of an absolute democratic
principle. Their angry resentment becomes transformed in their own minds
into righteous indignation; and there may be turned loose upon the
community a horde of self-seeking fanatics--like unto those soldiers in
the religious wars who robbed and slaughtered their opponents in the
service of God.



The principle of equal rights has always appealed to its more patriotic
and sensible adherents as essentially an impartial rule of political
action--one that held a perfectly fair balance between the individual
and society, and between different and hostile individual and class
interests. But as a fundamental principle of democratic policy it is as
ambiguous in this respect as it is in other respects. In its traditional
form and expression it has concealed an extremely partial interest under
a formal proclamation of impartiality. The political thinker who
popularized it in this country was not concerned fundamentally with
harmonizing the essential interest of the individual with the essential
popular or social interest. Jefferson's political system was intended
for the benefit only of a special class of individuals, viz., those
average people who would not be helped by any really formative rule or
method of discrimination. In practice it has proved to be inimical to
individual liberty, efficiency, and distinction. An insistent demand for
equality, even in the form of a demand for equal rights, inevitably has
a negative and limiting effect upon the free and able exercise of
individual opportunities. From the Jeffersonian point of view democracy
would incur a graver danger from a violation of equality than it would
profit from a triumphant assertion of individual liberty. Every
opportunity for the edifying exercise of power, on the part either of an
individual, a group of individuals, or the state is by its very nature
also an opportunity for its evil exercise. The political leader whose
official power depends upon popular confidence may betray the trust. The
corporation employing thousands of men and supplying millions of people
with some necessary service or commodity may reduce the cost of
production only for its own profit. The state may use its great
authority chiefly for the benefit of special interests. The advocate of
equal rights is preoccupied by these opportunities for the abusive
exercise of power, because from his point of view rights exercised in
the interest of inequality have ceased to be righteous. He distrusts
those forms of individual and associated activity which give any
individual or association substantial advantages over their associates.
He becomes suspicious of any kind of individual and social distinction
with the nature and effects of which he is not completely familiar.

A democracy of equal rights may tend to encourage certain expressions of
individual liberty; but they are few in number and limited in scope. It
rejoices in the freedom of its citizens, provided this freedom receives
certain ordinary expressions. It will follow a political leader, like
Jefferson or Jackson, with a blind confidence of which a really free
democracy would not be capable, because such leaders are, or claim to be
in every respect, except their prominence, one of the "people."
Distinction of this kind does not separate a leader from the majority.
It only ties them together more firmly. It is an acceptable assertion of
individual liberty, because it is liberty converted by its exercise into
a kind of equality. In the same way the American democracy most
cordially admired for a long time men, who pursued more energetically
and successfully than their fellows, ordinary business occupations,
because they believed that such familiar expressions of individual
liberty really tended towards social and industrial homogeneity. Herein
they were mistaken; but the supposition was made in good faith, and it
constitutes the basis of the Jeffersonian Democrat's illusion in
reference to his own interest in liberty. He dislikes or ignores
liberty, only when it looks in the direction of moral and intellectual
emancipation. In so far as his influence has prevailed, Americans have
been encouraged to think those thoughts and to perform those acts which
everybody else is thinking and performing.

The effect of a belief in the principle of "equal rights" on freedom is,
however, most clearly shown by its attitude toward Democratic political
organization and policy. A people jealous of their rights are not
sufficiently afraid of special individual efficiency and distinction to
take very many precautions against it. They greet it oftener with
neglect than with positive coercion. Jeffersonian Democracy is, however,
very much afraid of any examples of associated efficiency. Equality of
rights is most in clanger of being violated when the exercise of rights
is associated with power, and any unusual amount of power is usually
derived from the association of a number of individuals for a common
purpose. The most dangerous example of such association is not, however,
a huge corporation or a labor union; it is the state. The state cannot
be bound hand and foot by the law, as can a corporation, because it
necessarily possesses some powers of legislation; and the power to
legislate inevitably escapes the limitation of the principle of equal
rights. The power to legislate implies the power to discriminate; and
the best way consequently for a good democracy of equal rights to avoid
the danger of discrimination will be to organize the state so that its
power for ill will be rigidly restricted. The possible preferential
interference on the part of a strong and efficient government must be
checked by making the government feeble and devoid of independence. The
less independent and efficient the several departments of the government
are permitted to become, the less likely that the government as a whole
will use its power for anything but a really popular purpose.

In the foregoing type of political organization, which has been very
much favored by the American democracy, the freedom of the official
political leader is sacrificed for the benefit of the supposed freedom
of that class of equalized individuals known as the "people," but by the
"people" Jefferson and his followers have never meant all the people or
the people as a whole. They have meant a sort of apotheosized
majority--the people in so far as they could be generalized and reduced
to an average. The interests of this class were conceived as inimical to
any discrimination which tended to select peculiarly efficient
individuals or those who were peculiarly capable of social service. The
system of equal rights, particularly in its economic and political
application _has_ worked for the benefit of such a class, but rather in
its effect upon American intelligence and morals, than in its effect
upon American political and economic development. The system, that is,
has only partly served the purpose of its founder and his followers, and
it has failed because it did not bring with it any machinery adequate
even to its own insipid and barren purposes. Even the meager social
interest which Jefferson concealed under cover of his demand for equal
rights could not be promoted without some effective organ of social
responsibility; and the Democrats of to-day are obliged, as we have
seen, to invoke the action of the central government to destroy those
economic discriminations which its former inaction had encouraged. But
even so the traditional democracy still retains its dislike of
centralized and socialized responsibility. It consents to use the
machinery of the government only for a negative or destructive object.
Such must always be the case as long as it remains true to its
fundamental principle. That principle defines the social interest merely
in the terms of an indiscriminate individualism--which is the one kind
of individualism murderous to both the essential individual and the
essential social interest.

The net result has been that wherever the attempt to discriminate in
favor of the average or indiscriminate individual has succeeded, it has
succeeded at the expense of individual liberty, efficiency, and
distinction; but it has more often failed than succeeded. Whenever the
exceptional individual has been given any genuine liberty, he has
inevitably conquered. That is the whole meaning of the process of
economic and social development traced in certain preceding chapters.
The strong and capable men not only conquer, but they seek to perpetuate
their conquests by occupying all the strategic points in the economic
and political battle-field--whereby they obtain certain more or less
permanent advantages over their fellow-democrats. Thus in so far as the
equal rights are freely exercised, they are bound to result in
inequalities; and these inequalities are bound to make for their own
perpetuation, and so to provoke still further discrimination. Wherever
the principle has been allowed to mean what it seems to mean, it has
determined and encouraged its own violation. The marriage which it is
supposed to consecrate between liberty and equality gives birth to
unnatural children, whose nature it is to devour one or the other of
their parents.

The only way in which the thorough-going adherent of the principle of
equal rights can treat these tendencies to discrimination, when they
develop, is rigidly to repress them; and this tendency to repression is
now beginning to take possession of those Americans who represent the
pure Democratic tradition. They propose to crush out the chief examples
of effective individual and associated action, which their system of
democracy has encouraged to develop. They propose frankly to destroy, so
far as possible, the economic organization which has been built up under
stress of competitive conditions; and by assuming such an attitude they
have fallen away even from the pretense of impartiality, and have come
out as frankly representative of a class interest. But even to assert
this class interest efficiently they have been obliged to abandon, in
fact if not in word, their correlative principle of national
irresponsibility. Whatever the national interest may be, it is not to be
asserted by the political practice of non-interference. The hope of
automatic democratic fulfillment must be abandoned. The national
government must stop in and discriminate; but it must discriminate, not
on behalf of liberty and the special individual, but on behalf of
equality and the average man.

Thus the Jeffersonian principle of national irresponsibility can no
longer be maintained by those Democrats who sincerely believe that the
inequalities of power generated in the American economic and political
system are dangerous to the integrity of the democratic state. To this
extent really sincere followers of Jefferson are obliged to admit the
superior political wisdom of Hamilton's principle of national
responsibility, and once they have made this admission, they have
implicitly abandoned their contention that the doctrine of equal rights
is a sufficient principle of democratic political action. They have
implicitly accepted the idea that the public interest is to be asserted,
not merely by equalizing individual rights, but by controlling
individuals in the exercise of those rights. The national public
interest has to be affirmed by positive and aggressive fiction. The
nation has to have a will and a policy as well as the individual; and
this policy can no longer be confined to the merely negative task of
keeping individual rights from becoming in any way privileged.

The arduous and responsible political task which a nation in its
collective capacity must seek to perform is that of selecting among the
various prevailing ways of exercising individual rights those which
contribute to national perpetuity and integrity. Such selection implies
some interference with the natural course of popular notion; and that
interference is always costly and may be harmful either to the
individual or the social interest must be frankly admitted. He would be
a foolish Hamiltonian who would claim that a state, no matter how
efficiently organized and ably managed, will not make serious and
perhaps enduring mistakes; but he can answer that inaction and
irresponsibility are more costly and dangerous than intelligent and
responsible interference. The practice of non-interference is just as
selective in its effects as the practice of state interference. It means
merely that the nation is willing to accept the results of natural
selection instead of preferring to substitute the results of artificial
selection. In one way or another a nation is bound to recognize the
results of selection. The Hamiltonian principle of national
responsibility recognizes the inevitability of selection; and since it
is inevitable, is not afraid to interfere on behalf of the selection of
the really fittest. If a selective policy is pursued in good faith and
with sufficient intelligence, the nation will at least be learning from
its mistakes. It should find out gradually the kind and method of
selection, which is most desirable, and how far selection by
non-interference is to be preferred to active selection.

As a matter of fact the American democracy both in its central and in
its local governments has always practiced both methods of selection.
The state governments have sedulously indulged in a kind of interference
conspicuous both for its activity and its inefficiency. The Federal
government, on the other hand, has been permitted to interfere very much
less; but even during the palmiest days of national irresponsibility it
did not altogether escape active intervention. A protective tariff is,
of course, a plain case of preferential class legislation, and so was
the original Inter-state Commerce Act. They were designed to substitute
artificial preferences for those effected by unregulated individual
action, on the ground that the proposed modification of the natural
course of trade would contribute to the general economic prosperity. No
less preferential in purpose are the measures of reform recently enacted
by the central government. The amended Inter-state Commerce Law largely
increases the power of possible discrimination possessed by the Federal
Commission. The Pure Food Bill forbids many practices, which have arisen
in connection with the manufacture of food products, and discriminates
against the perpetrators of such practices. Factory legislation or laws
regulating the hours of labor have a similar meaning and justification.
It is not too much to say that substantially all the industrial
legislation, demanded by the "people" both here and abroad and passed in
the popular interest, has been based essentially on class

The situation which these laws are supposed to meet is always the same.
A certain number of individuals enjoy, in the beginning, equal
opportunities to perform certain acts; and in the competition resulting
there from some of these individuals or associations obtain advantages
over their competitors, or over their fellow-citizens whom they employ
or serve. Sometimes these advantages and the practices whereby they are
obtained are profitable to a larger number of people than they injure.
Sometimes the reverse is true. In either event the state is usually
asked to interfere by the class whose economic position has been
compromised. It by no means follows that the state should acquiesce in
this demand. In many cases interference may be more costly than
beneficial. Each case must be considered on its merits. But whether in
any particular case the state takes sides or remains impartial, it most
assuredly has a positive function to perform on the promises. If it
remains impartial, it simply agrees to abide by the results of natural
selection. If it interferes, it seeks to replace natural with artificial
discrimination. In both cases it authorizes discriminations which in
their effect violate the doctrine of "equal rights." Of course, a
reformer can always claim that any particular measure of reform proposes
merely to restore to the people a "Square Deal"; but that is simply an
easy and thoughtless way of concealing novel purposes under familiar
formulas. Any genuine measure of economic or political reform will, of
course, give certain individuals better opportunities than those they
have been recently enjoying, but it will reach this result only by
depriving other individuals of advantages which they have earned.

Impartiality is the duty of the judge rather than the statesman, of the
courts rather than the government. The state which proposes to draw a
ring around the conflicting interests of its citizens and interfere only
on behalf of a fair fight will be obliged to interfere constantly and
will never accomplish its purpose. In economic warfare, the fighting can
never be fair for long, and it is the business of the state to see that
its own friends are victorious. It holds, if you please, itself a hand
in the game. The several players are playing, not merely with one
another, but with the political and social bank. The security and
perpetuity of the state and of the individual in so far an he is a
social animal, depend upon the victory of the national interest--as
represented both in the assurance of the national profit and in the
domination of the nation's friends. It is in the position of the bank at
Monte Carlo, which does not pretend to play fair, but which frankly
promulgates rules advantageous to itself. Considering the percentage in
its favor and the length of its purse, it cannot possibly lose. It is
not really gambling; and it does not propose to take any unnecessary
risks. Neither can a state, democratic or otherwise, which believes in
its own purpose. While preserving at times an appearance of impartiality
so that its citizens may enjoy for a while a sense of the reality of
their private game, it must on the whole make the rules in its own
interest. It must help those men to win who are most capable of using
their winnings for the benefit of society.



Assuming, then, that a democracy cannot avoid the constant assertion of
national responsibility for the national welfare, an all-important
question remains as to the way in which and the purpose for which this
interference should be exercised. Should it be exercised on behalf of
individual liberty? Should it be exercised on behalf of social equality?
Is there any way in which it can be exercised on behalf both of liberty
and equality?

Hamilton and the constitutional liberals asserted that the state should
interfere exclusively on behalf of individual liberty; but Hamilton was
no democrat and was not outlining the policy of a democratic state. In
point of fact democracies have never been satisfied with a definition of
democratic policy in terms of liberty. Not only have the particular
friends of liberty usually been hostile to democracy, but democracies
both in idea and behavior have frequently been hostile to liberty; and
they have been justified in distrusting a political regime organized
wholly or even chiefly for its benefit. "La Liberte," says Mr. Emile
Faguet, in the preface to his "Politiques et Moralistes du Dix-Neuvieme
Siecle"--"La Liberte s'oppose a l'Egalite, car La Liberte est
aristocratique par essence. La Liberte ne se donne jamais, ne s'octroie
jamais; elle se conquiert. Or ne peuvent la conquerir que des groupes
sociaux qui out su se donne la coherence, l'organisation et la
discipline et qui par consequent, sont des groupes aristocratiques."
The fact that states organized exclusively or largely for the benefit
of liberty are essentially aristocratic explains the hostile and
suspicious attitude of democracies towards such a principle of political

Only a comparatively small minority are capable at any one time of
exercising political, economic, and civil liberties in an able,
efficient, or thoroughly worthy manner; and a regime wrought for the
benefit of such a minority would become at best a state, in which
economic, political, and social power would be very unevenly
distributed--a state like the Orleans Monarchy in France of the
"Bourgeoisie" and the "Intellectuals." Such a state might well give its
citizens fairly good government, as did the Orleans Monarchy; but just
in so far as the mass of the people had any will of its own, it could
not arouse vital popular interest and support; and it could not
contribute, except negatively, to the fund of popular good sense and
experience. The lack of such popular support caused the death of the
French liberal monarchy; and no such regime can endure, save, as in
England, by virtue of a somewhat abject popular acquiescence. As long as
it does endure, moreover, it tends to undermine the virtue of its own
beneficiaries. The favored minority, feeling as they do tolerably sure
of their position, can scarcely avoid a habit of making it somewhat too
easy for one another. The political, economic, and intellectual leaders
begin to be selected without any sufficient test of their efficiency.
Some sort of a test continues to be required; but the standards which
determine it drift into a condition of being narrow, artificial, and
lax. Political, intellectual, and social leadership, in order to
preserve its vitality needs a feeling of effective responsibility to a
body of public opinion as wide, as varied, and as exacting as that of
the whole community.

The desirable democratic object, implied in the traditional democratic
demand for equality, consists precisely in that of bestowing a share of
the responsibility and the benefits, derived from political and economic
association, upon the whole community. Democracies have assumed and have
been right in assuming that a proper diffusion of effective
responsibility and substantial benefits is the one means whereby a
community can be supplied with an ultimate and sufficient bond of union.
The American democracy has attempted to manufacture a sufficient bond
out of the equalization of rights: but such a bond is, as we have seen,
either a rope of sand or a link of chains. A similar object must be
achieved in some other way; and the ultimate success of democracy
depends upon its achievement.

The fundamental political and social problem of a democracy may be
summarized in the following terms. A democracy, like every political and
social group, is composed of individuals, and must be organized for the
benefit of its constituent members. But the individual has no chance of
effective personal power except by means of the secure exercise of
certain personal rights. Such rights, then, must be secured and
exercised; yet when they are exercised, their tendency is to divide the
community into divergent classes. Even if enjoyed with some equality in
the beginning, they do not continue to be equally enjoyed, but make
towards discriminations advantageous to a minority. The state, as
representing the common interest, is obliged to admit the inevitability
of such classifications and divisions, and has itself no alternative but
to exercise a decisive preference on behalf of one side or the other. A
well-governed state will use its power to promote edifying and desirable
discriminations. But if discriminations tend to divide the community,
and the state itself cannot do more than select among the various
possible cases of discrimination those which it has some reason to
prefer, how is the solidarity of the community to be preserved? And
above all, how is a democratic community, which necessarily includes
everybody in its benefits and responsibilities, to be kept well united?
Such a community must retain an ultimate bond of union which counteracts
the divergent effect of the discriminations, yet which at the same time
is not fundamentally hostile to individual liberties.

The clew to the best available solution of the problem is supplied by a
consideration of the precise manner, in which the advantages derived
from the efficient exercise of liberties become inimical to a wholesome
social condition. The hostility depends, not upon the existence of such
advantageous discriminations for a time, but upon their persistence for
too long a time. When, either from natural or artificial causes, they
are properly selected, they contribute at the time of their selection
both to individual and to social efficiency. They have been earned, and
it is both just and edifying that, in so far as they have been earned,
they should be freely enjoyed. On the other hand, they should not, so
far as possible, be allowed to outlast their own utility. They must
continue to be earned. It is power and opportunity enjoyed without being
earned which help to damage the individual--both the individuals who
benefit and the individuals who consent--and which tend to loosen the
ultimate social bond. A democracy, no less than a monarchy or an
aristocracy, must recognize political, economic, and social
discriminations, but it must also manage to withdraw its consent
whenever these discriminations show any tendency to excessive endurance.
The essential wholeness of the community depends absolutely on the
ceaseless creation of a political, economic, and social aristocracy and
their equally incessant replacement.

Both in its organization and in its policy a democratic state has
consequently to seek two different but supplementary objects. It is the
function of such a state to represent the whole community; and the whole
community includes the individual as well as the mass, the many as well
as the few. The individual is merged in the mass, unless he is enabled
to exercise efficiently and independently his own private and special
purposes. He must not only be permitted, he must be encouraged to earn
distinction; and the best way in which he can be encouraged to earn
distinction is to reward distinction both by abundant opportunity and
cordial appreciation. Individual distinction, resulting from the
efficient performance of special work, is not only the foundation of all
genuine individuality, but is usually of the utmost social value. In so
far as it is efficient, it has a tendency to be constructive. It both
inserts some member into the social edifice which forms for the time
being a desirable part of the whole structure, but it tends to establish
a standard of achievement which may well form a permanent contribution
to social amelioration. It is useful to the whole community, not because
it is derived from popular sources or conforms to popular standards, but
because it is formative and so helps to convert the community into a
well-formed whole.

Distinction, however, even when it is earned, always has a tendency to
remain satisfied with its achievements, and to seek indefinitely its own
perpetuation. When such a course is pursued by an efficient and
distinguished individual, he is, of course, faithless to the meaning and
the source of his own individual power. In abandoning and replacing him
a democracy is not recreant to the principle of individual liberty. It
is merely subjecting individual liberty to conditions which promote and
determine its continued efficiency. Such conditions never have been and
never will be imposed for long by individuals or classes of individuals
upon themselves. They must be imposed by the community, and nothing less
than the whole community. The efficient exercise of individual power is
necessary to form a community and make it whole, but the duty of keeping
it whole rests with the community itself. It must consciously and
resolutely preserve the social benefit, derived from the achievements of
its favorite sons; and the most effective means thereto is that of
denying to favoritism of all kinds the opportunity of becoming a mere

The specific means whereby this necessary and formative favoritism can
be prevented from becoming a mere habit vary radically among the
different fields of personal activity. In the field of intellectual work
the conditions imposed upon the individual must for the most part be the
creation of public opinion; and in its proper place this aspect of the
relation between individuality and democracy will receive special
consideration. In the present connection, however, the relation of
individual liberty to democratic organization and policy can be
illustrated and explained most helpfully by a consideration of the
binding and formative conditions of political and economic liberty.
Democracies have always been chiefly preoccupied with the problems
raised by the exercise of political and economic opportunities, because
success in politics and business implies the control of a great deal of
physical power and the consequent possession by the victors in a
peculiar degree of both the motive and the means to perpetuate their

The particular friends of freedom, such as Hamilton and the French
"doctrinaires," have always believed that both civil and political
liberty depended on the denial of popular Sovereignty and the rigid
limitation of the suffrage. Of course, a democrat cannot accept such a
conclusion. He should doubtless admit that the possession of absolute
Sovereign power is always liable to abuse; and if he is candid, he can
hardly fail to add that democratic favoritism is subject to the same
weakness as aristocratic or royal favoritism. It tends, that is, to make
individuals seek distinction not by high individual efficiency, but by
compromises in the interest of useful popularity. It would be vain to
deny the gravity of this danger or the extent to which, in the best of
democracies, the seekers after all kinds of distinction have been
hypnotized by an express desire for popularity. But American statesmen
have not always been obliged to choose between Hamilton's unpopular
integrity and Henry Clay's unprincipled bidding for popular favor. The
greatest American political leaders have been popular without any
personal capitulation; and their success is indicative of what is
theoretically the most wholesome relation between individual political
liberty and a democratic distribution of effective political power. The
highest and most profitable individual political distinction is that
which is won from a large field and from a whole people. Political, even
more than other kinds of distinction, should not be the fruit of a
limited area of selection. It must be open to everybody, and it must be
acceptable to the community as a whole. In fact, the concession of
substantially equal political rights is an absolute condition of any
fundamental political bond. Grave as are the dangers which a democratic
political system incurs, still graver ones are incurred by a rigidly
limited electoral organization. A community, so organized, betrays a
fundamental lack of confidence in the mutual loyalty and good faith of
its members, and such a community can remain well united only at the
cost of a mixture of patronage and servility.

The limitation of the suffrage to those who are individually capable of
making the best use of it has the appearance of being reasonable; and it
has made a strong appeal to those statesmen and thinkers who believed in
the political leadership of intelligent and educated men. Neither can it
be denied that a rigidly restricted suffrage might well make in the
beginning for administrative efficiency and good government. But it must
never be forgotten that a limited suffrage confines ultimate political
responsibility, not only to a number of peculiarly competent
individuals, but to a larger or smaller class; and in the long run a
class is never to be trusted to govern in the interest of the whole
community. A democracy should encourage the political leadership of
experienced, educated, and well-trained men, but only on the express
condition that their power is delegated and is to be used, under severe
penalties, for the benefit of the people as a whole. A limited suffrage
secures governmental efficiency, if at all, at the expense of the
political education and training of the disfranchised class, and at the
expense, also, of a permanent and radical popular political grievance. A
substantially universal suffrage merely places the ultimate political
responsibility in the hands of those for whose benefit governments are
created; and its denial can be justified only on the ground that the
whole community is incapable of exercising the responsibility. Such
cases unquestionably exist. They exist wherever the individuals
constituting a community, as at present in the South, are more divided
by social or class ambitions and prejudices than they are united by a
tradition of common action and mutual loyalty. But wherever the whole
people are capable of thinking, feeling, and acting as if they
constituted a whole, universal suffrage, even if it costs something in
temporary efficiency, has a tendency to be more salutary and more
formative than a restricted suffrage.

The substantially equal political rights enjoyed by the American people
for so many generations have not proved dangerous to the civil liberties
of the individual and, except to a limited extent, not to his political
liberty. Of course, the American democracy has been absolutely opposed
to the delegation to individuals of official political power, except
under rigid conditions both as to scope and duration; and the particular
friends of liberty have always claimed that such rigid conditions
destroyed individual political independence and freedom. Hamilton, for
instance, was insistent upon the necessity of an upper house consisting
of life-members who would not be dependent on popular favor for their
retention of office. But such proposals have no chance of prevailing in
a sensible democracy. A democracy is justified in refusing to bestow
permanent political power upon individuals, because such permanent
tenure of office relaxes oftener than it stimulates the efficiency of
the favored individual, and makes him attach excessive importance to
mere independence. The official leaders of a democracy should, indeed,
hold their offices under conditions which will enable them to act and
think independently; but independence is really valuable only when the
officeholder has won it from his own followers. Under any other
conditions it is not only peculiarly liable to abuse, but it deprives
the whole people of that ultimate responsibility for their own welfare,
without which democracy is meaningless. A democracy is or should be
constantly delegating an effective share in this responsibility to its
official leaders, but only on condition that the power and
responsibility delegated is partial and is periodically resumed.

The only Americans who hold important official positions for life are
the judges of the Federal courts. Radical democrats have always
protested against this exception, which, nevertheless, can be permitted
without any infringement of democratic principles. The peculiar position
of the Federal judge is symptomatic of the peculiar importance in the
American system of the Federal Constitution. A senator would be less
likely to be an efficient and public-spirited legislator, in case he
were not obliged at regular intervals to prove title to his distinction.
A justice of the Supreme Court, on the other hand, can the better
perform his special task, provided he has a firm and permanent hold upon
his office. He cannot, to be sure, entirely escape responsibility to
public opinion, but his primary duty is to expound the Constitution as
he understands it; and it is a duty which demands the utmost personal
independence. The fault with the American system in this respect
consists not in the independence of the Federal judiciary, but in the
practical immutability of the Constitution. If the instrument which the
Supreme Court expounds could be altered whenever a sufficiently large
body of public opinion has demanded a change for a sufficiently long
time, the American democracy would have much more to gain than to fear
from the independence of the Federal judiciary.

The interest of individual liberty in relation to the organization of
democracy demands simply that the individual officeholder should possess
an amount of power and independence adequate to the efficient
performance of his work. The work of a justice of the Supreme Court
demands a power that is absolute for its own special work, and it
demands technically complete independence. An executive should, as a
rule, serve for a longer term, and hold a position of greater
independence than a legislator, because his work of enforcing the laws
and attending to the business details of government demands continuity,
complete responsibility within its own sphere, and the necessity
occasionally of braving adverse currents of public opinion. The term of
service and the technical independence of a legislator might well be
more restricted than that of an executive; but even a legislator should
be granted as much power and independence as he may need for the
official performance of his public duty. The American democracy has
shown its enmity to individual political liberty, not because it has
required its political favorites constantly to seek reelection, but
because it has since 1800 tended to refuse to its favorites during their
official term as much power and independence as is needed for
administrative, legislative, and judicial efficiency. It has been
jealous of the power it delegated, and has tried to take away with one
hand what it gave with the other.

Taking American political traditions, ideals, institutions, and
practices as a whole, there is no reason to believe that the American
democracy cannot and will not combine sufficient opportunities for
individual political distinction with an effective ultimate popular
political responsibility. The manner in which the combination has been
made hitherto is far from flawless, and the American democracy has much
to learn before it reaches an organization adequate to its own proper
purposes. It must learn, above all, that the state, and the individuals
who are temporarily responsible for the action of the state, must be
granted all the power necessary to redeem that responsibility.
Individual opportunity and social welfare both depend upon the learning
of this lesson; and while it is still very far from being learned, the
obstacles in the way are not of a disheartening nature.

With the economic liberty of the individual the case is different. The
Federalists refrained from protecting individual political rights by
incorporating in the Constitution any limitation of the suffrage; but
they sought to protect the property rights of the individual by the most
absolute constitutional guarantees. Moreover, American practice has
allowed the individual a far larger measure of economic liberty than is
required by the Constitution; and this liberty was granted in the
expectation that it would benefit, not the individual as such, but the
great mass of the American people. It has undoubtedly benefited the
great mass of the American people; but it has been of far more benefit
to a comparatively few individuals. Americans are just beginning to
learn that the great freedom which the individual property-owner has
enjoyed is having the inevitable result of all unrestrained exercise of
freedom. It has tended to create a powerful but limited class whose
chief object it is to hold and to increase the power which they have
gained; and this unexpected result has presented the American democracy
with the most difficult and radical of its problems. Is it to the
interest of the American people as a democracy to permit the increase or
the perpetuation of the power gained by this aristocracy of money?

A candid consideration of the foregoing question will, I believe, result
in a negative answer. A democracy has as much interest in regulating for
its own benefit the distribution of economic power as it has the
distribution of political power, and the consequences of ignoring this
interest would be as fatal in one case as in the other. In both
instances regulation in the democratic interest is as far as possible
from meaning the annihilation of individual liberty; but in both
instances individual liberty should be subjected to conditions which
will continue to keep it efficient and generally serviceable. Individual
economic power is not any more dangerous than individual political
power--provided it is not held too absolutely and for too long a time.
But in both cases the interest of the community as a whole should be
dominant; and the interest of the whole community demands a considerable
concentration of economic power and responsibility, but only for the
ultimate purpose of its more efficient exercise and the better
distribution of its fruits.

That certain existing American fortunes have in their making been of the
utmost benefit to the whole economic organism is to my mind
unquestionably the fact. Men like Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan, Mr. Andrew
Carnegie, Mr. James J. Hill, and Mr. Edward Harriman have in the course
of their business careers contributed enormously to American economic
efficiency. They have been overpaid for their services, but that is
irrelevant to the question immediately under consideration. It is
sufficient that their economic power has been just as much earned by
substantial service as was the political power of a man like Andrew
Jackson; and if our country is to continue its prosperous economic
career, it must retain an economic organization which will offer to men
of this stamp the opportunity and the inducement to earn distinction.
The rule which has already been applied to the case of political power
applies, also, to economic power. Individuals should enjoy as much
freedom from restraint, as much opportunity, and as much responsibility
as is necessary for the efficient performance of their work. Opinions
will differ as to the extent of this desirable independence and its
associated responsibility. The American millionaire and his supporters
claim, of course, that any diminution of opportunity and independence
would be fatal. To dispute this inference, however, does not involve the
abandonment of the rule itself. A democratic economic system, even more
than a democratic political system, must delegate a large share of
responsibility and power to the individual, but under conditions, if
possible, which will really make for individual efficiency and

The grievance which a democrat may feel towards the existing economic
system is that it makes only partially for genuine individual economic
efficiency and distinction. The political power enjoyed by an individual
American rarely endures long enough to survive its own utility. But
economic power can in some measure at least be detached from its
creator. Let it be admitted that the man who accumulates $50,000,000 in
part earns it, but how about the man who inherits it? The inheritor of
such a fortune, like the inheritor of a ducal title, has an opportunity
thrust upon him. He succeeds to a colossal economic privilege which he
has not earned and for which he may be wholly incompetent. He rarely
inherits with the money the individual ability possessed by its maker,
but he does inherit a "money power" wholly independent of his own
qualifications or deserts. By virtue of that power alone he is in a
position in some measure to exploit his fellow-countrymen. Even though a
man of very inferior intellectual and moral caliber, he is able vastly
to increase his fortune through the information and opportunity which
that fortune bestows upon him, and without making any individual
contribution to the economic organization of the country. His power
brings with it no personal dignity or efficiency; and for the whole
material and meaning of his life he becomes as much dependent upon his
millions as a nobleman upon his title. The money which was a source of
distinction to its creator becomes in the course of time a source of
individual demoralization to its inheritor. His life is organized for
the purpose of spending a larger income than any private individual can
really need; and his intellectual point of view is bounded by his narrow
experience and his class interests.

No doubt the institution of private property, necessitating, as it does,
the transmission to one person of the possessions and earnings of
another, always involves the inheritance of unearned power and
opportunity. But the point is that in the case of very large fortunes
the inherited power goes far beyond any legitimate individual needs, and
in the course of time can hardly fail to corrupt its possessors. The
creator of a large fortune may well be its master; but its inheritor
will, except in the case of exceptionally able individuals, become its
victim, and most assuredly the evil social effects are as bad as the
evil individual effects. The political bond which a democracy seeks to
create depends for its higher value upon an effective social bond. Gross
inequalities in wealth, wholly divorced from economic efficiency on the
part of the rich, as effectively loosen the social bond as do gross
inequalities of political and social standing. A wholesome social
condition in a democracy does not imply uniformity of wealth any more
than it implies uniformity of ability and purpose, but it does imply the
association of great individual economic distinction with responsibility
and efficiency. It does imply that economic leaders, no less than
political ones, should have conditions imposed upon them which will
force them to recognize the responsibilities attached to so much power.
Mutual association and confidence between the leaders and followers is
as much a part of democratic economic organization as it is of
democratic political organization; and in the long run the inheritance
of vast fortunes destroys any such relation. They breed class envy on
one side, and class contempt on the other; and the community is either
divided irremediably by differences of interest and outlook, or united,
if at all, by snobbish servility.

If the integrity of a democracy is injured by the perpetuation of
unearned economic distinctions, it is also injured by extreme poverty,
whether deserved or not. A democracy which attempted to equalize wealth
would incur the same disastrous fate as a democracy which attempted to
equalize political power; but a democracy can no more be indifferent to
the distribution of wealth than it can to the distribution of the
suffrage. In a wholesome democracy every male adult should participate
in the ultimate political responsibility, partly because of the
political danger of refusing participation to the people, and partly
because of the advantages to be derived from the political union of the
whole people. So a wholesome democracy should seek to guarantee to every
male adult a certain minimum of economic power and responsibility. No
doubt it is much easier to confer the suffrage on the people than it is
to make poverty a negligible social factor; but the difficulty of the
task does not make it the less necessary. It stands to reason that in
the long run the people who possess the political power will want a
substantial share of the economic fruits. A prudent democracy should
anticipate this demand. Not only does any considerable amount of
grinding poverty constitute a grave social danger in a democratic state,
but so, in general, does a widespread condition of partial economic
privation. The individuals constituting a democracy lack the first
essential of individual freedom when they cannot escape from a condition
of economic dependence.

The American democracy has confidently believed in the fatal prosperity
enjoyed by the people under the American system. In the confidence of
that belief it has promised to Americans a substantial satisfaction of
their economic needs; and it has made that promise an essential part of
the American national idea. The promise has been measurably fulfilled
hitherto, because the prodigious natural resources of a new continent
were thrown open to anybody with the energy to appropriate them. But
those natural resources have now in large measure passed into the
possession of individuals, and American statesmen can no longer count
upon them to satisfy the popular hunger for economic independence. An
ever larger proportion of the total population of the country is taking
to industrial occupations, and an industrial system brings with it much
more definite social and economic classes, and a diminution of the
earlier social homogeneity. The contemporary wage-earner is no longer
satisfied with the economic results of being merely an American citizen.
His union is usually of more obvious use to him than the state, and he
is tending to make his allegiance to his union paramount to his
allegiance to the state. This is only one of many illustrations that the
traditional American system has broken down. The American state can
regain the loyal adhesion of the economically less independent class
only by positive service. What the wage-earner needs, and what it is to
the interest of a democratic state he should obtain, is a constantly
higher standard of living. The state can help him to conquer a higher
standard of living without doing any necessary injury to his employers
and with a positive benefit to general economic and social efficiency.
If it is to earn the loyalty of the wage-earners, it must recognize the
legitimacy of his demand, and make the satisfaction of it an essential
part of its public policy.

The American state is dedicated to such a duty, not only by its
democratic purpose, but by its national tradition. So far as the former
is concerned, it is absurd and fatal to ask a popular majority to
respect the rights of a minority, when those rights are interpreted so
as seriously to hamper, if not to forbid, the majority from obtaining
the essential condition of individual freedom and development--viz. the
highest possible standard of living. But this absurdity becomes really
critical and dangerous, in view of the fact that the American people,
particularly those of alien birth and descent, have been explicitly
promised economic freedom and prosperity. The promise was made on the
strength of what was believed to be an inexhaustible store of natural
opportunities; and it will have to be kept even when those natural
resources are no longer to be had for the asking. It is entirely
possible, of course, that the promise can never be kept,--that its
redemption will prove to be beyond the patience, the power, and the
wisdom of the American people and their leaders; but if it is not kept,
the American commonwealth will no longer continue to be a democracy.



We are now prepared, I hope, to venture upon a more fruitful definition
of democracy. The popular definitions err in describing it in terms of
its machinery or of some partial political or economic object. Democracy
does not mean merely government by the people, or majority rule, or
universal suffrage. All of these political forms or devices are a part
of its necessary organization; but the chief advantage such methods of
organization have is their tendency to promote some salutary and
formative purpose. The really formative purpose is not exclusively a
matter of individual liberty, although it must give individual liberty
abundant scope. Neither is it a matter of equal rights alone, although
it must always cherish the social bond which that principle represents.
The salutary and formative democratic purpose consists in using the
democratic organization for the joint benefit of individual distinction
and social improvement.

To define the really democratic organization as one which makes
expressly and intentionally for individual distinction and social
improvement is nothing more than a translation of the statement that
such an organization should make expressly and intentionally for the
welfare of the whole people. The whole people will always consist of
individuals, constituting small classes, who demand special
opportunities, and the mass of the population who demand for their
improvement more generalized opportunities. At any particular time or in
any particular case, the improvement of the smaller classes may conflict
with that of the larger class, but the conflict becomes permanent and
irreconcilable only when it is intensified by the lack of a really
binding and edifying public policy, and by the consequent stimulation of
class and factional prejudices and purposes. A policy, intelligently
informed by the desire to maintain a joint process of individual and
social amelioration, should be able to keep a democracy sound and whole
both in sentiment and in idea. Such a democracy would not be dedicated
either to liberty or to equality in their abstract expressions, but to
liberty and equality, in so far as they made for human brotherhood. As
M. Faguet says in the introduction to his "Politiques et Moralistes du
Dix-Neuvieme Siecle," from which I have already quoted: "Liberte et
Egalite sont donc contradictoires et exclusives l'une et l'autre; mais
la Fraternite les concilierait. La Fraternite non seulement concilierait
la Liberte et l'Egalite, mais elle les ferait generatrices l'une et
l'autre." The two subordinate principles, that is, one representing the
individual and the other the social interest, can by their subordination
to the principle of human brotherhood, be made in the long run mutually

The foregoing definition of the democratic purpose is the only one which
can entitle democracy to an essential superiority to other forms of
political organization. Democrats have always tended to claim some such
superiority for their methods and purposes, but in case democracy is to
be considered merely as a piece of political machinery, or a partial
political idea, the claim has no validity. Its superiority must be based
upon the fact that democracy is the best possible translation into
political and social terms of an authoritative and comprehensive moral
idea; and provided a democratic state honestly seeks to make its
organization and policy contribute to a better quality of individuality
and a higher level of associated life, it can within certain limits
claim the allegiance of mankind on rational moral grounds.

The proposed definition may seem to be both vague and commonplace; but
it none the less brings with it practical consequences of paramount
importance. The subordination of the machinery of democracy to its
purpose and the comprehension within that purpose of the higher
interests both of the individual and society, is not only exclusive of
many partial and erroneous ideas, but demands both a reconstructive
programme and an efficient organization. A government by the people,
which seeks an organization and a policy beneficial to the individual
and to society, is confronted by a task as responsible and difficult as
you please; but it is a specific task which demands the adoption of
certain specific and positive means. Moreover it is a task which the
American democracy has never sought consciously to achieve. American
democrats have always hoped for individual and social amelioration as
the result of the operation of their democratic system; but if any such
result was to follow, its achievement was to be a happy accident. The
organization and policy of a democracy should leave the individual and
society to seek their own amelioration. The democratic state should
never discriminate in favor of anything or anybody. It should only
discriminate against all sorts of privilege. Under the proposed
definition, on the other hand, popular government is to make itself
expressly and permanently responsible for the amelioration of the
individual and society; and a necessary consequence of this
responsibility is an adequate organization and a reconstructive policy.

The majority of good Americans will doubtless consider that the
reconstructive policy, already indicated, is flagrantly socialistic both
in its methods and its objects; and if any critic likes to fasten the
stigma of socialism upon the foregoing conception of democracy, I am not
concerned with dodging the odium of the word. The proposed definition of
democracy is socialistic, if it is socialistic to consider democracy
inseparable from a candid, patient, and courageous attempt to advance
the social problem towards a satisfactory solution. It is also
socialistic in case socialism cannot be divorced from the use, wherever
necessary, of the political organization in all its forms to realize the
proposed democratic purpose. On the other hand, there are some doctrines
frequently associated with socialism, to which the proposed conception
of democracy is wholly inimical; and it should be characterized not so
much socialistic, as unscrupulously and loyally nationalistic.

A democracy dedicated to individual and social betterment is necessarily
individualist as well as socialist. It has little interest in the mere
multiplication of average individuals, except in so far as such
multiplication is necessary to economic and political efficiency; but it
has the deepest interest in the development of a higher quality of
individual self-expression. There are two indispensable economic
conditions of qualitative individual self-expression. One is the
preservation of the institution of private property in some form, and
the other is the radical transformation of its existing nature and
influence. A democracy certainly cannot fulfill its mission without the
eventual assumption by the state of many functions now performed by
individuals, and without becoming expressly responsible for an improved
distribution of wealth; but if any attempt is made to accomplish these
results by violent means, it will most assuredly prove to be a failure.
An improvement in the distribution of wealth or in economic efficiency
which cannot be accomplished by purchase on the part of the state or by
a legitimate use of the power of taxation, must be left to the action of
time, assisted, of course, by such arrangements as are immediately
practical. But the amount of actual good to the individual and society
which can be effected _at any one time_ by an alteration in the
distribution of wealth is extremely small; and the same statement is
true of any proposed state action in the interest of the democratic
purpose. Consequently, while responsible state action is an essential
condition of any steady approach to the democratic consummation, such
action will be wholly vain unless accompanied by a larger measure of
spontaneous individual amelioration. In fact, one of the strongest
arguments on behalf of a higher and larger conception of state
responsibilities in a democracy is that the candid, courageous, patient,
and intelligent attempt to redeem those responsibilities provides one of
the highest types of individuality--viz. the public-spirited man with a
personal opportunity and a task which should be enormously stimulating
and edifying.

The great weakness of the most popular form of socialism consists,
however, in its mixture of a revolutionary purpose with an international
scope. It seeks the abolition of national distinctions by revolutionary
revolts of the wage-earner against the capitalist; and in so far as it
proposes to undermine the principle of national cohesion and to
substitute for it an international organization of a single class, it is
headed absolutely in the wrong direction. Revolutions may at times be
necessary and on the whole helpful, but not in case there is any other
practicable method of removing grave obstacles to human amelioration;
and in any event their tendency is socially disintegrating. The
destruction or the weakening of nationalities for the ostensible benefit
of an international socialism would in truth gravely imperil the bond
upon which actual human association is based. The peoples who have
inherited any share in Christian civilization are effectively united
chiefly by national habits, traditions, and purposes; and perhaps the
most effective way of bringing about an irretrievable division of
purpose among them would be the adoption by the class of wage-earners
of the programme of international socialism. It is not too much to say
that no permanent good can, under existing conditions, come to the
individual and society except through the preservation and the
development of the existing system of nationalized states.

Radical and enthusiastic democrats have usually failed to attach
sufficient importance to the ties whereby civilized men are at the
present time actually united. Inasmuch as national traditions are
usually associated with all sorts of political, economic, and social
privileges and abuses, they have sought to identify the higher social
relation with the destruction of the national tradition and the
substitution of an ideal bond. In so doing they are committing a
disastrous error; and democracy will never become really constructive
until this error is recognized and democracy abandons its former
alliance with revolution. The higher human relation must be brought
about chiefly by the improvement and the intensification of existing
human relations. The only possible foundation for a better social
structure is the existing order, of which the contemporary system of
nationalized states forms the foundation.

Loyalty to the existing system of nationalized states does not
necessarily mean loyalty to an existing government merely because it
exists. There have been, and still are, governments whose ruin is a
necessary condition of popular liberation; and revolution doubtless
still has a subordinate part to play in the process of human
amelioration. The loyalty which a citizen owes to a government is
dependent upon the extent to which the government is representative of
national traditions and is organized in the interest of valid national
purposes. National traditions and purposes always contain a large
infusion of dubious ingredients; but loyalty to them does not
necessarily mean the uncritical and unprotesting acceptance of the
national limitations and abuses. Nationality is a political and social
ideal as well as the great contemporary political fact. Loyalty to the
national interest implies devotion to a progressive principle. It
demands, to be sure, that the progressive principle be realized without
any violation of fundamental national ties. It demands that any national
action taken for the benefit of the progressive principle be approved
by the official national organization. But it also serves as a ferment
quite as much as a bond. It bids the loyal national servants to fashion
their fellow-countrymen into more of a nation; and the attempt to
perform this bidding constitutes a very powerful and wholesome source of
political development. It constitutes, indeed, a source of political
development which is of decisive importance for a satisfactory theory of
political and social progress, because a people which becomes more of a
nation has a tendency to become for that very reason more of a

The assertion that a people which becomes more of a nation becomes for
that very reason more of a democracy, is, I am aware, a hazardous
assertion, which can be justified, if at all, only at a considerable
expense. As a matter of fact, the two following chapters will be devoted
chiefly to this labor of justification. In the first of these chapters I
shall give a partly historical and partly critical account of the
national principle in its relation to democracy; and in the second I
shall apply the results, so achieved, to the American national principle
in its relation to the American democratic idea. But before starting
this complicated task, a few words must be premised as to the reasons
which make the attempt well worth the trouble.

If a people, in becoming more of a nation, become for that very reason
more of a democracy, the realization of the democratic purpose is not
rendered any easier, but democracy is provided with a simplified, a
consistent, and a practicable programme. An alliance is established
thereby between the two dominant political and social forces in modern
life. The suspicion with which aggressive advocates of the national
principle have sometimes regarded democracy would be shown to have only
a conditional justification; and the suspicion with which many ardent
democrats have regarded aggressive nationalism would be similarly
disarmed. A democrat, so far as the statement is true, could trust the
fate of his cause in each particular state to the friends of national
progress. Democracy would not need for its consummation the ruin of the
traditional political fabrics; but so far as those political bodies were
informed by genuinely national ideas and aspirations, it could await
confidently the process of national development. In fact, the first duty
of a good democrat would be that of rendering to his country loyal
patriotic service. Democrats would abandon the task of making over the
world to suit their own purposes, until they had come to a better
understanding with their own countrymen. One's democracy, that is, would
begin at home and it would for the most part stay at home; and the cause
of national well-being would derive invaluable assistance from the loyal
cooeperation of good democrats.

A great many obvious objections will, of course, be immediately raised
against any such explanation of the relation between democracy and
nationality; and I am well aware that these objections demand the most
serious consideration. A generation or two ago the European democrat was
often by way of being an ardent nationalist; and a constructive relation
between the two principles was accepted by many European political
reformers. The events of the last fifty years have, however, done much
to sever the alliance, and to make European patriots suspicious of
democracy, and European democrats suspicious of patriotism. To what
extent these suspicions are justified, I shall discuss in the next
chapter; but that discussion will be undertaken almost exclusively for
obtaining, if possible, some light upon our domestic situation. The
formula of a constructive relation between the national and democratic
principles has certain importance for European peoples, and particularly
for Frenchmen: but, if true, it is of a far superior importance to
Americans. It supplies a constructive form for the progressive solution
of their political and social problems; and while it imposes on them
responsibilities which they have sought to evade, it also offers
compensations, the advantage of which they have scarcely expected.

Americans have always been both patriotic and democratic, just as they
have always been friendly both to liberty and equality, but in neither
case have they brought the two ideas or aspirations into mutually
helpful relations. As democrats they have often regarded nationalism
with distrust, and have consequently deprived their patriotism of any
sufficient substance and organization. As nationalists they have
frequently regarded essential aspects of democracy with a wholly
unnecessary and embarrassing suspicion. They have been after a fashion
Hamiltonian, and Jeffersonian after more of a fashion; but they have
never recovered from the initial disagreement between Hamilton and
Jefferson. If there is any truth in the idea of a constructive relation
between democracy and nationality this disagreement must be healed. They
must accept both principles loyally and unreservedly; and by such
acceptance their "noble national theory" will obtain a wholly
unaccustomed energy and integrity. The alliance between the two
principles will not leave either of them intact; but it will necessarily
do more harm to the Jeffersonian group of political ideas than it will
to the Hamiltonian. The latter's nationalism can be adapted to democracy
without an essential injury to itself, but the former's democracy cannot
be nationalized without being transformed. The manner of its
transformation has already been discussed in detail. It must cease to be
a democracy of indiscriminate individualism; and become one of selected
individuals who are obliged constantly to justify their selection; and
its members must be united not by a sense of joint irresponsibility, but
by a sense of joint responsibility for the success of their political
and social ideal. They must become, that is, a democracy devoted to the
welfare of the whole people by means of a conscious labor of individual
and social improvement; and that is precisely the sort of democracy
which demands for its realization the aid of the Hamiltonian
nationalistic organization and principle.




Whatever the contemporary or the logical relation between nationality
and democracy as ideas and as political forces, they were in their
origin wholly independent one of the other. The Greek city states
supplied the first examples of democracy; but their democracy brought
with it no specifically national characteristics. In fact, the political
condition and ideal implied by the word nation did not exist in the
ancient world. The actual historical process, which culminated in the
formation of the modern national state, began some time in the Middle
Ages--a period in which democracy was almost an incredible form of
political association. Some of the mediaeval communes were not without
traces of democracy; but modern nations do not derive from those
turbulent little states. They derive from the larger political divisions
into which Europe drifted during the Dark Ages; and they have grown with
the gradually prospering attempt to bestow on the government of these
European countries the qualities of efficiency and responsibility.

A complete justification of the foregoing statements would require a
critical account of the political development of Western Europe since
400 B.C.; but within the necessary limits of the present discussion, we
shall have to be satisfied with the barest summary of the way in which
the modern national states originated, and of the relation to democracy
which has gradually resulted from their own proper development. A great
deal of misunderstanding exists as to the fundamental nature of a
national as compared to a city or to an imperial state, because the
meaning of the national idea has been obscured by the controversies
which its militant assertion has involved. It has been identified both
with a revolutionary and a racial political principle, whereas its
revolutionary or racial associations are essentially occasional and
accidental. The modern national state is at bottom the most intelligent
and successful attempt which has yet been made to create a comparatively
stable, efficient, and responsible type of political association.

The primary objects sought in political association are internal order,
security from foreign attack, the authoritative and just adjustment of
domestic differences and grievances, and a certain opportunity for
individual development; and these several objects are really reducible
to two, because internal order cannot be preserved among a vigorous
people, in case no sufficient opportunity is provided for individual
development or for the adjustment of differences and grievances. In
order that a state may be relatively secure from foreign attack, it must
possess a certain considerable area, population, and military
efficiency. The fundamental weakness of the commune or city state has
always been its inability to protect itself from the aggressions of
larger or more warlike neighbors, and its correlative inability to
settle its own domestic differences without foreign interference. On the
other hand, when a state became sufficiently large and well organized to
feel safe against alien aggression, it inevitably became the aggressor
itself; and it inevitably carried the conquest of its neighbors just as
far as it was able. But domestic security, which is reached by constant
foreign aggression, results inevitably in a huge unwieldy form of
imperial political organization which is obliged by the logic of its
situation to seek universal dominion. The Romans made the great attempt
to establish a dominion of this kind; and while their Empire could not
endure, because their military organization destroyed in the end the
very foundation of internal order, they bequeathed to civilization a
political ideal and a legal code of inestimable subsequent value.

As long as men were obliged to choose between a communal or an imperial
type of political organization,--which was equivalent merely to a choice
between anarchy and despotism,--the problem of combining internal order
with external security seemed insoluble. They needed a form of
association strong enough to defend their frontiers, but not
sufficiently strong to attack their neighbors with any chance of
continued success; and such a state could not exist unless its unity
and integrity had some moral basis, and unless the aggressions of
exceptionally efficient states were checked by some effective
inter-state organization. The coexistence of such states demanded in its
turn the general acceptance of certain common moral ties and standards
among a group of neighboring peoples; and such a tie was furnished by
the religious bond with which Catholic Christianity united the peoples
of Western Europe--a bond whereby the disorder and anarchy of the early
Middle Ages was converted into a vehicle of political and social
education. The members of the Christian body had much to fear from their
fellow-Christians, but they also had much to gain. They shared many
interesting and vital subjects of consultation; and even when they
fought, as they usually did, they were likely to fight to some purpose.
But beyond their quarrels Catholic Christians comprised one universe of
discourse. They were somehow responsible one to another; and their
mutual ties and responsibilities were most clearly demonstrated whenever
a peculiarly unscrupulous and insistent attempt was made to violate
them. As new and comparatively strong states began to emerge from the
confusion of the early Middle Ages, it was soon found that under the new
conditions states which were vigorous enough to establish internal peace
and to protect their frontiers were not vigorous enough to conquer their
neighbors. Political efficiency was brought to a much better realization
of its necessary limits and responsibilities, because of the moral and
intellectual education which the adoption of Christianity had imposed
upon the Western peoples.

One of the earliest examples of political efficiency in mediaeval Europe
was the England of Edward I, which had begun to exhibit certain
characteristics of a national state. Order was more than usually well
preserved. It was sheltered by the Channel from foreign attack. The
interest both of the nobles and of the people had been considered in its
political organization. A fair balance was maintained among the leading
members of the political body, so that the English kings could invade
France with united national armies which easily defeated the incoherent
rabble of knights and serfs whereby they were opposed. Nevertheless,
when the English, after the manner of other efficient states, tried to
conquer France, they were wholly unable to extinguish French
resistance, as the similar resistance of conquered peoples had so
frequently been extinguished in classic times. The French people rallied
to a king who united them in their resistance to foreign domination; and
the ultimate effect of the prolonged English aggression was merely the
increasing national efficiency and the improving political organization
of the French people.

The English could not extinguish the resistance of the French people,
because their aggression aroused in Frenchmen latent power of effective
association. Notwithstanding the prevalence of a factious minority, and
the lack of any habit or tradition of national association, the power of
united action for a common purpose was stimulated by the threat of alien
domination; and this latent power was unquestionably the result in some
measure of the discipline of Christian ideas to which the French, in
common with the other European peoples, had been subjected. That
discipline had, as has already been observed, increased men's capacity
for fruitful association one with another. It had stimulated a social
relationship much superior to the prevailing political relationship. It
had enabled them to believe in an idea and to fight devotedly on its
behalf. It is no accident, consequently, that the national resistance
took on a religious character, and in Jeanne d'Arc gave birth to one of
the most fragrant figures in human history. Thus the French national
resistance, and the national bond thereby created, was one political
expression of the power of cooeperation developed in the people of Europe
by the acceptance of a common religious bond. On the other hand, the use
which the English had made of their precocious national organization
weakened its foundations. The aggressive exercise of military force
abroad for an object which it was incompetent to achieve disturbed the
domestic balance of power on which the national organization of the
English people rested. English political efficiency was dependent partly
upon its responsible exercise; and it could not survive the disregard of
domestic responsibilities entailed by the expense in men and money of
futile external aggression.

The history of Europe as it emerged from the Middle Ages affords a
continuous illustration of the truth that the increasing political
efficiency of the several states was proportioned to the exercise of
their powers in a responsible manner. The national development of the
several states was complicated in the beginning by the religious wars;
but those peoples suffered least from the wars of religion who did not
in the end allow them to interfere with their primary political
responsibilities. Spain, for instance, whose centuries of fighting with
the Moors had enormously developed her military efficiency, used this
military power solely for the purpose of pursuing political and
religious objects antagonistic or irrelevant to the responsibilities of
the Spanish kings towards their own subjects. The Spanish monarchy
proclaimed as its dominant political object the maintenance by force of
the Catholic faith throughout Europe; and for three generations it
wasted the superb military strength and the economic resources of the
Spanish people in an attempt to crush out Protestantism in Holland and
England and to reinforce militant Catholicism in France. Upon Germany,
divided into a number of petty states, partly Protestant, and partly
Catholic, but with the Imperial power exerted on behalf of a Catholic
and anti-national interest, the religious wars laid a heavy hand. Her
lack of political cohesion made her the prey of neighboring countries
whose population was numerically smaller, but which were better
organized; and the end of the Thirty Years' War left her both despoiled
and exhausted, because her political organization was wholly incapable
of realizing a national policy or of meeting the national needs. Great
Britain during all this period was occupied with her domestic problems
and interfered comparatively little in continental affairs; and the
result of this discreet and sensible effort to adapt her national
organization to her peculiar domestic needs was in the eighteenth
century an extraordinary increase of national efficiency. France also
emerged from the religious wars headed by a dynasty which really
represented national aspirations, and which was alive in some respects
to its responsibilities toward the French people. The Bourbon monarchy
consolidated the French national organization, encouraged French
intellectual and religious life, and at times sought in an intelligent
manner to improve the economic conditions of the country. For the first
time in the history of continental Europe something resembling a
genuinely national state was developed. Differences of religious opinion
had been subordinated to the political and social interests of the
French people. The crown, with the aid of a succession of able
ministers, suppressed a factious nobility at home, and gradually made
France the dominant European Power. A condition of the attainment of
both of these objects was the loyal support of the French people, and
the alliance with the monarchy, as the embodiment of French national
life, of Frenchmen of ability and purpose.

The French monarchy, however, after it had become the dominant power in
Europe, followed the bad example of previous states, and aroused the
fear of its neighbors by a policy of excessive aggression. In this
instance French domineering did not stimulate the national development
of any one neighbor, because it was not concentrated upon any one or two
peoples. But it did threaten the common interests of a number of
European states; and it awakened an unprecedented faculty of inter-state
association for the protection of these interests. The doctrine of the
Balance of Power waxed as the result of this experience into a living
principle in European politics; and it imposed an effective check upon
the aggression of any single state. France was unable to retain the
preponderant position which she had earned during the early years of the
reign of Louis XIV; and this mistake of the Bourbon monarchy was the
cause of its eventual downfall. The finances of the country were wrecked
by its military efforts and failures, the industrial development of the
people checked, and their loyalty to the Bourbons undermined. A gulf was
gradually created between the French nation and its official
organization and policy.

England, on the other hand, was successfully pursuing the opposite work
of national improvement and consolidation. She was developing a system
of government which, while preserving the crown as the symbol of social
order, combined aristocratic leadership with some measure of national
representation. For the first time in centuries the different members of
her political body again began to function harmoniously; and she used
the increasing power of aggression thereby secured with unprecedented
discretion and good sense. She had learned that her military power could
not be used with any effect across the Channel, and that under existing
conditions her national interests in relation to the other European
Powers were more negative than positive. Her expansive energy was
concentrated on the task of building up a colonial empire in Asia and
America; and in this task her comparative freedom from continental
entanglements enabled her completely to vanquish France. Her success in
creating a colonial empire anticipated with extraordinary precision the
course during the nineteenth century of European national development.

In contemplating the political situation of Europe towards the end of
the eighteenth century the student of the origin of the power and
principle of nationality will be impressed by its two divergent aspects.
The governments of the several European states had become tolerably
efficient for those purposes in relation to which, during the sixteenth
century and before, efficiency had been most necessary. They could keep
order. Their citizens were protected to some extent in the enjoyment of
their legal rights. The several governments were closely associated
chiefly for the purpose of preventing excessive aggression on the part
of any one state and of preserving the Balance of Power. Unfortunately,
however, these governments had acquired during the turbulent era an
unlimited authority which was indispensable to the fundamental task of
maintaining order, but which, after order had been secured, was
sufficient to encourage abuse. Their power was in theory absolute. It
was an imitation of Roman Imperialism, and made no allowance for those
limitations, both in its domestic and foreign expressions, which existed
as a consequence of national growth and the international system. Their
authority at all times was keyed up to the pitch of a great emergency.
It was supposed to be the immediate expression of the common weal. The
common weal was identified with the security of society and the state.
The security of the state dictated the supreme law. The very authority,
consequently, which was created to preserve order and the Balance of
Power gradually became an effective cause of internal and external
disorder. It became a source not of security, but of individual and
social insecurity, because a properly organized machinery for exercising
such a power and redeeming such a vast responsibility had not as yet
been wrought.

The rulers of the continental states in the eighteenth century explained
and excused every important action they took by what was called "La
Raison d'Etat"--that is, by reasons connected with the public safety
which justified absolute authority and extreme measures. But as a matter
of fact this absolute authority, instead of being confined in its
exercise to matters in which the public safety was really concerned, was
wasted and compromised chiefly for the benefit of a trivial domestic
policy and a merely dynastic foreign policy. At home the exercise of
absolute authority was not limited to matters and occasions which really
raised questions of public safety. In their foreign policies the
majority of the states had little idea of the necessary and desirable
limits of their own aggressive power. Those limits were imposed from
without; and when several states could combine in support of an act of
international piracy, as in the case of the partition of Poland, Europe
could not be said to have any effective system of public law. The
partition of Poland, which France could and should have prevented, was
at once a convincing exposure of the miserable international position to
which France had been reduced by the Bourbons, and the best possible
testimony to the final moral bankruptcy of the political system of the
eighteenth century.



In 1789 the bombshell of the French Revolution exploded under this
fabric of semi-national and semi-despotic, but wholly royalist and
aristocratic, European political system. For the first time in the
history of European nations a national organization and tradition was
confronted by a radical democratic purpose and faith. The two ideas have
been face to face ever since; and European history thereafter may, in
its broadest aspect, be considered as an attempt to establish a fruitful
relation between them. In the beginning it looked as if democracy would,
so far as it prevailed, be wholly destructive of national institutions
and the existing international organization. The insurgent democrats
sought to ignore and to eradicate the very substance of French national
achievement. They began by abolishing all social and economic privileges
and by framing a new polity based in general upon the English idea of a
limited monarchy, partial popular representation, and equal civil
rights; but, carried along by the momentum of their ideas and incensed
by the disloyalty of the king and his advisers and the threat of
invasion they ended by abolishing royalty, establishing universal
suffrage and declaring war upon every embodiment, whether at home or
abroad, of the older order. The revolutionary French democracy
proclaimed a creed, not merely subversive of all monarchical and
aristocratic institutions, but inimical to the substance and the spirit
of nationality. Indeed it did not perceive any essential distinction
between the monarchical or legitimist and the national principles; and
the error was under the circumstances not unnatural. In the European
political landscape of 1793 despotic royalty was a much more conspicuous
fact than the centuries of political association in which these
monarchies had been developed. But the eyes of the French democrats had
been partially blinded by their own political interests and theories.
Their democracy was in theory chiefly a matter of abstract political
rights which remitted logically in a sort of revolutionary anarchy. The
actual bonds whereby men were united were ignored. All traditional
authority fell under suspicion. Frenchmen, in their devotion to their
ideas and in their distrust of every institution, idea, or person
associated with the Old Regime, hacked at the roots of their national
cohesion and undermined the foundations of social order.

To a disinterested political philosopher of that day the antagonism
between the principle of political authority and cohesion, as
represented by the legitimate monarchies, and the principle of popular
Sovereignty represented by the French democracy, may well have looked
irretrievable. But events soon proved that such an inference could not
be drawn too quickly. It is true that the French democracy, by breaking
so violently the bonds of national association, perpetuated a division
between their political organization and the substance of their national
life, which was bound in the end to constitute a source of weakness. Yet
the revolutionary democracy succeeded, nevertheless, in releasing
sources of national energy, whose existence had never before been
suspected, and in uniting the great body of the French people for the
performance of a great task. Even though French national cohesion had
been injured in one respect, French national efficiency was temporarily
so increased that the existing organization and power of the other
continental countries proved inadequate to resist it. When the French
democracy was attacked by its monarchical neighbors, the newly aroused
national energy of the French people was placed enthusiastically at the
service of the military authorities. The success of the French armies,
even during the disorders of the Convention and the corruption of the
Directory, indicated that revolutionary France possessed possibilities
of national efficiency far superior to the France of the Old Regime.

Neither the democrats nor Napoleon had, in truth, broken as much as they
themselves and their enemies believed with the French national
tradition; but unfortunately that aspect of the national tradition
perpetuated by them was by no means its best aspect. The policy, the
methods of administration, and the actual power of the Committee of
Public Safety and of Napoleon were all inherited from the Old Regime.
Revolutionary France merely adapted to new conditions the political
organization and policy to which Frenchmen had been accustomed; and the
most serious indictment to be made against it is that its excesses
prevented it from dispensing with the absolutism which social disorder
and unwarranted foreign aggression always necessitate. The Revolution
made France more of a nation than it had been in the eighteenth century,
because it gave to the French people the civil freedom, the political
experience, and the economic opportunities which they needed, but it did
not heal the breach which the Bourbons had made between the political
organization of France and its legitimate national interests and
aspirations. France in 1815, like France in 1789, remained a nation
divided against itself,--a nation which had perpetuated during a
democratic revolution a part of its national tradition most opposed to
the logic of its new political and social ideas. It remained, that is, a
nation whose political organization and policy had not been adapted to
its domestic needs, and one which occupied on anomalous and suspected
position in the European international system.

On the other hand, French democracy and Imperialism had directly and
indirectly instigated the greater national efficiency of the neighboring
European states. Alliances among European monarchs had not been
sufficient to check the Imperial ambitions of Napoleon, as they had
been sufficient to check the career of Louis XIV, because behind a
greater general was the loyal devotion and the liberated energy of the
French people; but when outrages perpetrated on the national feelings of
Germans and Spaniards added an enthusiastic popular support to the
hatred which the European monarchs cherished towards a domineering
upstart, the fall of Napoleon became only a question of time. The excess
and the abuse of French national efficiency and energy, consequent upon
its sudden liberation and its perpetuation of an illogical but natural
policy of national aggression, had the same effect upon Europe as
English aggression had upon the national development of France. Napoleon
was crushed under a popular uprising, comparable to that of the French
people, which had been the condition of his own aggrandizement. Thus, in
spite of the partial antagonism between the ideas of the French
Revolutionary democracy and the principle of nationality the ultimate
effect of the Revolution both in France and in Europe was to increase
the force and to enlarge the area of the national movement. English
national sentiment was enormously stimulated by the strenuous wars of
the Revolutionary epoch. The embers of Spanish national feeling were
blown into spasmodic life. The peoples of Italy and Germany had been
possessed by the momentum of a common political purpose, and had been
stirred by promises of national representation. Even France, unstable
though its political condition was, had lost none of the results of the
Revolution for which it had fought in the beginning; and if the Bourbons
were restored, it was only on the implicit condition that the monarchy
should be nationalized. The Revolutionary democracy, subversive as were
its ideas, had started a new era for the European peoples of national
and international construction.

Of course, it was by no means obvious in 1815 that a constructive
national and international principle had come to dominate the European
political system. The Treaty of Vienna was an unprincipled compromise
among the divergent interests and claims of the dominant Powers, and the
triumphant monarchs ignored their promises of national reform or
representation. For one whole generation they resolutely suppressed, so
far as they were able, every symptom of an insurgent democratic or
national idea. They sought persistently and ingeniously to identify in
Europe the principle of political integrity and order with the principle
of the legitimate monarchy. But obscurantist as were the ideas and the
policy of the Holy Alliance, the political system it established was an
enormous improvement upon that of the eighteenth century. Not only was
the sense of responsibility of the governing classes very much
quickened, but the international system was based on a comparatively
moral and rational idea. For the first time in European history a group
of rulers, possessing in theory absolute authority and forming an
apparently irresistible combination, exercised this power with
moderation. They did not combine, as in the case of the partition of
Poland, to break the peace and prey upon a defenseless neighbor, but to
keep the peace; and if to keep the peace meant the suppression wherever
possible of liberal political ideas, it meant also the renunciation of
aggressive foreign policies. In this way Europe obtained the rest which
was necessary after the havoc of the Revolutionary wars, while at the
same time the principle on which the Holy Alliance was based was being
put to the test of experience. Such a test it could not stand. The
people of Europe were not content to identify the principle of political
order, whether in domestic or foreign affairs, with that of legitimate
monarchy and with the arbitrary political alignments of the Treaty of
Vienna. Such a settlement ignored the political forces and ideas which,
while originating in Revolutionary France, had none the less saved
Europe from the consequences of French Revolutionary and Imperial

Beginning in 1848, Europe entered upon another period of revolutionary
disturbance, which completely destroyed the political system of the Holy
Alliance. At the outset these revolutions were no more respectful of
national traditions than was the French Revolution; and as long as they
remained chiefly subversive in idea and purpose, they accomplished
little. But after some unsuccessful experimentation, the new
revolutionary movement gradually adopted a national programme; and
thereafter, its triumphs were many and varied. For the first time in
political history the meaning of the national principle began to be
understood; and it became in the most explicit manner a substantial and
a formative political idea.

The revolutionary period taught European statesmen and political
thinkers that political efficiency and responsibility both implied some
degree of popular representation. Such representation did not
necessarily go as far as thorough-going democrats would like. It did not
necessarily transfer the source of political authority from the crown to
the people. It did not necessarily bring with it, as in France, the
overthrow of those political and social institutions which constituted
the traditional structure of the national life. But it did imply that
the government should make itself expressly responsible to public
opinion, and should consult public opinion about all important questions
of public policy. A certain amount of political freedom was shown to be
indispensable to the making of a nation, and the granting of this amount
of political freedom was no more than a fulfillment of the historical
process in which the nations of Europe had originated.

The people of Europe had drifted into groups, the members of which, for
one reason or another, were capable of effective political association.
This association was not based at bottom on physical conditions. It was
not dependent on a blood bond, because as a matter of fact the racial
composition of the European peoples is exceedingly mixed. It was partly
conditioned on geographical continuity without being necessarily caused
thereby, and was wholly independent of any uniformity of climate. The
association was in the beginning largely a matter of convenience or a
matter of habit. Those associations endured which proved under stress of
historical vicissitudes to be worthy of endurance. The longer any
particular association endured, the more firm it became in political
structure and the more definite in policy. Its citizens became
accustomed to association one with another, and they became accustomed
to those political and social forms which supplied the machinery of
joint action. Certain institutions and ideas were selected by the
pressure of historical events and were capitalized into the effective
local political and social traditions. These traditions constituted the
substance of the political and social bond. They provided the forms
which enabled the people of any group to realize a joint purpose or, if
necessary, to discuss serious differences. In their absence the very
foundation of permanent political cohesion was lacking. For a while the
protection of these groups against domestic and foreign enemies
demanded, as we have seen, the exercise of an absolute political
authority and the severe suppression of any but time-honored individual
or class interests; but when comparative order had been secured, a
higher standard of association gradually came to prevail. Differences of
conviction and interest among individuals and classes, which formerly
were suppressed or ignored, could no longer be considered either as so
dangerous to public safety as to demand suppression or as so
insignificant as to justify indifference. Effective association began to
demand, that is, a new adjustment among the individual and class
interests, traditions, and convictions which constituted the substance
of any particular state; and such an adjustment could be secured only by
an adequate machinery of consultation and discussion. Cohesion could no
longer be imposed upon a people, because they no longer had any
sufficient reason to submit to the discipline of such an imposition. It
had to be reached by an enlarged area of political association, by the
full expression of individual and class differences, and finally by the
proper adjustment of those differences in relation to the general
interest of the whole community.

As soon as any European state attained, by whatever means, a
representative government, it began to be more of a nation, and to
obtain the advantages of a more nationalized political organization.
England's comparative domestic security enabled her to become more of a
nation sooner than any of her continental neighbors; and her national
efficiency forced the French to cultivate their latent power of national
association. In France the government finally succeeded in becoming
nationally representative without much assistance from any regular
machinery of representation; but under such conditions it could not
remain representative. One of its defects as a nation to-day is its lack
of representative institutions to which Frenchmen have been long
accustomed and which command some instinctive loyalty. Stimulated by
French and English example, the other European states finally understood
that some form or degree of popular representation was essential to
national cohesion; and little by little they have been grafting
representative institutions upon their traditional political structures.
Thus the need of political and social cohesion was converted into a
principle of constructive national reform. A nation is more or less of a
nation according as its members are more or less capable of effective
association; and the great object of a genuinely national domestic
policy is that of making such association candid, loyal, and fruitful.
Loyal and fruitful association is far from demanding mere uniformity of
purpose and conviction on the part of those associated. On the contrary
it gains enormously from a wide variety of individual differences,--but
with the essential condition that such differences do not become
factious in spirit and hostile to the utmost freedom of intercourse. But
the only way of mitigating factiousness and misunderstanding is by means
of some machinery of mutual consultation, which may help to remedy
grievances and whose decision shall determine the political action taken
in the name of the whole community. The national principle, that is,
which is precisely the principle of loyal and fruitful political
association, depends for its vitality upon the establishment and
maintenance of a constructive relation between the official political
organization and policy and the interests, the ideas, and the traditions
of the people as a whole. The nations of Europe, much as they suffered
from the French Revolution and disliked it, owe to the insurgent French
democracy their effective instruction in this political truth.

It follows, however, that there is no universal and perfect machinery
whereby loyal and fruitful national association can be secured. The
nations of Europe originated in local political groups, each of which
possessed its own peculiar interests, institutions, and traditions.
Their power of fruitful national association depended more upon loyalty
to their particular local political tradition and habits than upon any
ideal perfection in their new and experimental machinery for
distributing political responsibility and securing popular
representation. A national policy and organization is, consequently,
essentially particular; and, what is equally important, its particular
character is partly determined by the similarly special character of the
policy and organization of the surrounding states. The historical
process in which each of the European nations originated included, as
an essential element, the action and reaction of these particular states
one upon the other. Each nation was formed, that is, as part of a
political system which included other nations. As any particular state
became more of a nation, its increasing power of effective association
forced its neighbors either into submission or into an equally efficient
exercise of national resistance. Little by little it has been discovered
that any increase in the loyalty and fertility of a country's domestic
life was contingent upon the attainment of a more definite position in
the general European system; and that, on the other hand, any attempt to
escape from the limitations imposed upon a particular state by the
general system was followed by a diminished efficiency in its machinery
of national association.

The full meaning of these general principles can, perhaps, be best
explained by the consideration in relation thereto of the existing
political condition of the foremost European nations--Great Britain,
France, and Germany. Each of these special cases will afford an
opportunity of exhibiting a new and a significant variation of the
relation between the principles of nationality and the principles of
democracy; and together they should enable us to reach a fairly complete
definition of the extent to which, in contemporary Europe, any fruitful
relation can be established between them. What has already been said
sufficiently indicates that the effective realization of a national
principle, even in Europe, demands a certain infusion of democracy; but
it also indicates that this democratic infusion cannot at any one time
be carried very far without impairing the national integrity. How far,
then, in these three decisive cases has the democratic infusion been
carried and what are the consequences, the promise, and the dangers of
each experiment?



It has already been observed that England was the first European state
both in mediaeval and modern times to reach a high degree of national
efficiency. At a period when the foreign policies of the continental
states were exclusively but timidly dynastic, and when their domestic
organizations illustrated the disadvantages of a tepid autocracy, Great
Britain had entered upon a foreign policy of national colonial expansion
and was building up a representative national domestic organization.
After several centuries of revolutionary disturbance the English had
regained their national balance, without sacrificing any of the
time-honored elements in their national life. The monarchy was
reconstituted as the symbol of the national integrity and as the crown
of the social system. The hereditary aristocracy, which was kept in
touch with the commoners because its younger sons were not noble and
which was national, if not liberal, in spirit, became the real rulers of
England; but its role was supplemented by an effective though limited
measure of general representation. This organization was perfected in
the nineteenth century. Little by little the area of popular
representation was enlarged, until it included almost the whole adult
male population; and the government became more and more effectively
controlled by national public opinion. As a result of this slowly
gathering but comprehensive plan of national organization, the English
have become more completely united in spirit and purpose than are the
people of any other country. The crown and the aristocracy recognize the
limitations of their positions and their inherited responsibilities to
the gentry and the people. The commoners on their side are proud of
their lords and of the monarchy and grant them full confidence. It is a
unique instance of mutual loyalty and well-distributed responsibility
among social classes, differing widely in station, occupations, and
wealth; and it is founded upon habit of joint consultation, coupled, as
the result of the long persistence of this habit, with an unusual
similarity of intellectual and moral outlook.

The result, until recently, was an exceptional degree of national
efficiency; and in scrutinizing this national efficiency the fact must
be faced that the political success of Great Britain has apparently been
due, not merely to her adoption of the practice of national
representation, but to her abhorrence of any more subversive democratic
ideas. On the one hand, the British have organized a political system
which is probably more sensitively and completely responsive to a
nationalized public opinion than is the political system of the
American democracy. On the other hand, this same nationalized political
organization is aristocratic to the core--aristocratic without scruple
or qualification. What is the effect of this aristocratic organization
upon the efficiently and fertility of the English political system? Has
it contributed in the past to such efficiency? Does it still contribute?
And if so, how far?

The power of the English aristocracy is no doubt to be justified, in
part, by the admirable service which has been rendered to the country by
the nobility and the gentry. During the eighteenth and a part of the
nineteenth centuries the political leadership of the English people was
on the whole both efficient and edifying. During all this period their
continental competitors were either burdened with autocratic
obscurantism or else were weakened by civil struggles and the fatal
consequences of military aggression. In the meantime Great Britain
pursued a comparatively tranquil course of domestic reform and colonial
and industrial expansion. She was the European Power whose political and
industrial energies were most completely liberated and most successfully
used; and as a consequence she naturally drifted into an extremely
self-satisfied state of mind in respect to her political and economic
organization and policy. But during the last quarter of the nineteenth
century political and economic conditions both began to change. The more
important competing nations had by that time overcome their internal
disorders, and by virtue of their domestic reforms had released new
springs of national energy. Great Britain had to face much severer
competition in the fields both of industrial and colonial expansion; and
during all of these years she has been losing ground. Her expansion has
not entirely ceased; but industrially she is being left behind by
Germany and by the United States, and her recent colonial acquisitions
have been attained only at an excessive cost. Inasmuch as she has
succeeded in retaining her relative superiority on the sea, she has
maintained her special position in the European political system; but
the relatively greater responsibilities of the future coupled with her
relatively smaller resources make her future international standing
dubious. It looks as if there might be something lacking in the national
organization and policy with which Great Britain has been so completely

Many Englishmen recognize that their national organization has
diminished in efficiency, and they are considering various methods of
meeting the emergency. But to an outsider it does not look as if any
remedy, as yet seriously proposed, was really adequate. The truth is,
that the existing political, social, and economic organization of Great
Britain both impairs and misleads the energy of the people. It was
adequate to the economic and political conditions of two generations
ago, but it is at the present time becoming more and more inadequate. It
is inferior in certain essential respects to the economic and political
organization of Great Britain's two leading competitors--Germany and the
United States. It is lacking in purpose. It is lacking in brains. It is
lacking in faith.

Just as Great Britain benefited enormously during a century and a half
from her political precocity, so she is now suffering from the
consequences thereof. The political temperament of her people, their
method of organization, and their national ideals all took form at a
time when international competition for colonies and trade was not very
sharp, and when democracy had no philosophic or moral standing. At the
beginning of the eighteenth century the country was longing for domestic
peace, and it was willing to secure peace at any price save that of
liberty. The leadership of the landed aristocracy and gentry secured to
the British people domestic peace and civil liberty, and in return for
these very great blessings they sold themselves to the privileged
classes. These privileged classes have probably deserved their
privileges more completely than has the aristocracy of any other
country. They have been patriotic; they have shed their blood and spent
their money on what they believed to be the national welfare; they
introduced an honorable and an admirable _esprit de corps_ into the
English public service; and they have been loyal to the great formative
English political idea--the idea of liberty. They have granted to the
people from time to time as much liberty as public opinion demanded, and
have in this way maintained to the present day their political and
social prestige. But although they have been, on the whole, individually
disinterested, they have not been and they could not be disinterested as
a class. Owning as they did much of the land, they had as a class
certain economic interests. Possessing as they did certain special
privileges, they had as a class certain political interests. These
interests have been scrupulously preserved, no matter whether they did
or did not conflict with the national interest. Their landed
proprietorship has resulted in certain radical inequalities of taxation
and certain grave economic drawbacks. Their position as a privileged
class made them hospitable only to those reforms which spared their
privileges. But their privileges could not be spared, provided
Englishmen allowed rational ideas any decisive influence in their
political life; and the consequence of this abstention from ideas was
the gradual cultivation of a contempt for intelligence, an excessive
worship of tradition, and a deep-rooted faith in the value of
compromise. In the interest of domestic harmony they have identified
complacent social subserviency with the virtue of loyalty, and have
erected compromise into an ultimate principle of political action.

The landed aristocracy and gentry of England have been obliged to face
only one serious crisis--the prolonged crisis occasioned by the
transformation of Great Britain from an agricultural to an industrial
community. The way the English privileged classes preserved their
political leadership during a period, in which land was ceasing to be
the source of Great Britain's economic prosperity, is an extraordinary
illustration of their political tact and social prestige. But it must be
added that their leadership has been preserved more in name than in
substance. The aristocracy managed to keep its prestige and its apparent
power during the course of the industrial revolution, but only on
condition of the abandonment of the substance thereof. The nobility and
the gentry became the privileged servants of the rising middle class.
They bought off their commercial and industrial conquerors with the
concession of free trade, because at the time such a concession did not
seem to injure their own interests; and they agreed to let the English
business man practically dictate the national policy. In this way they
preserved their political and social privileges and have gradually so
identified the interests of the well-to-do middle class with their
interest that the two have become scarcely distinguishable. The
aristocracy of privilege and the aristocracy of wealth are absolutely
united in their devotion to the existing political organization and
policy of the United Kingdom.

This bargain appeared to work very well for a while; but indications are
accumulating that a let-alone economic policy has not preserved the
vitality of the British economic system. The English farmer has lost
ambition, and has been sacrificed to the industrial growth of the
nation, while the industrial growth itself no longer shows its former
power of expansion. The nation passed the responsibility for its
economic welfare on to the individual; and the individual with all his
energy and initiative seems unable to hold his own against better
organized competition. Its competitors have profited by the very
qualities which Great Britain renounced when she accepted the
anti-national liberalism of the Manchester school. They have shown under
widely different conditions the power of nationalizing their economic
organization; and in spite of the commission of many errors,
particularly in this country, a system of national economy appears to
make for a higher level of economic vitality than a system of
international economy. "At the present time," says Mr. O. Elzbacher in
his "Modern Germany," "when other nations are no longer divided against
themselves, but have become homogeneous unified nations in fact and
nations in organization, and when the most progressive nations have
become gigantic institutions for self-improvement and gigantic business
concerns on cooeperative principles, the spasmodic individual efforts of
patriotic and energetic Englishmen and their unorganized individual
action prove less efficient for the good of their country than they were
formerly." The political leaders of England abandoned, that is, all
leadership in economic affairs and allowed a merely individualistic
liberalism complete control of the fiscal and economic policy of the
country. The government resigned economic responsibility at the very
time when English economic interests began to need vigilant protection
and promotion; and as a consequence of this resignation the English
governing class practically surrendered its primary function. What
seemed to be an easy transferal to more competent shoulders of the
national responsibility for the economic welfare of the country has
proved to be a betrayal of the national interest.

Fiscal reform alone will, however, never enable Great Britain to compete
more vigorously with either the United States or Germany. The diminished
economic vitality of England must be partly traced to her tradition of
political and social subserviency, which serves to rob both the ordinary
and the exceptional Englishmen of energy and efficiency. American
energy, so far as it is applied to economic tasks, is liberated not
merely by the abundance of its opportunities, but by the prevailing idea
that every man should make as much of himself as he can; and in
obedience to this idea the average American works with all his might
towards some special personal goal. The energy of the average
Englishman, on the other hand, is impaired by his complacent acceptance
of positions of social inferiority and by his worship of degrading
social distinctions; and even successful Englishmen suffer from a
similar handicap. The latter rarely push their business successes home,
because they themselves immediately begin to covet a place in the social
hierarchy, and to that end are content with a certain established
income. The pleasure which the average Englishman seems to feel in
looking up to the "upper classes" is only surpassed by the pleasure
which the exceptional Englishman seems to feel in looking down on the
"lower classes." Englishmen have always congratulated themselves because
their nobility was not a caste; but the facts that the younger sons of
the peers are commoners, and that a distinguished commoner may earn a
peerage, only makes the poison of these arbitrary social discriminations
the more deadly. An Englishman always has a chance of winning an
irrelevant but very gratifying social and political privilege. He may by
acceptable services of the ordinary kind become as good as a lord. Some
such ambition is nearly always the end to which the energy of the
successful Englishman is directed, and its particular nature hinders him
from realizing the special purpose of his own life with an unimpeded

The net result of the English system is to infect English social,
political, military, and industrial life with social favoritism, and the
poison of the infection is only mitigated by the condition that the
"favorites" must deserve their selection by the maintenance of a certain
standard. This standard was formed a good many years ago when the
conditions of efficiency were not so exacting as they are to-day. At
that time it was a sufficiently high standard and made, on the whole,
for successful achievement. It demanded of the "favorite" that he be
honest, patriotic, well-educated, gentlemanly, courageous, and a "good
sort," but it wholly failed to demand high special training, intense
application, unremitting energy, or any exclusive devotion to one's
peculiar work. If an Englishman comes up to the regular standard, he can
usually obtain his share of the good things of English life; but if he
goes beyond, he falls under the social disqualification of being
abnormal and peculiar. The standard, consequently, is not now an
efficient standard; and it is frequently applied with some laxity to the
members of the privileged classes. A tacit conspiracy naturally exists
among people in such a position to make it easy for their associates,
friends, and relatives. The props and chances offered to a boy born into
this class make the very most of his probably moderate deserts and
abilities, and in occupying a position of responsibility he inevitably
displaces a more competent substitute. In our own country the enjoyment
of such political favors is known as a "pull," and is a popular but
disreputable method of political advancement, whereas in England the
whole social, and a large part of the political, structure is
constituted on the basis of a systematic and hereditary "pull." The
spirit thereof is highly honored in the most sacred precincts of English
life. It is supported heartily and unscrupulously by English public
opinion, and its critics are few and insignificant.

When Englishmen come to understand the need of dissociating their
national idea from its existing encumbrances of political privilege and
social favoritism, they will be confronted by a reconstructive task of
peculiar difficulty. The balance of the national life, which has been so
slowly and painfully recovered, will be endangered by the weakening of
any of its present supports. For centuries the existing system has been
wrought with the utmost patience and patriotism; and an Englishman may
well shudder at the notion of any essential modification. The good of
the system is so mixed with the evil that it seems impossible to
extricate and eradicate the latter without endangering English national
cohesion. Their traditional faith in compromise, their traditional dread
of ideas, their traditional habit of acting first and reasoning
afterwards, has made the English system a hopelessly confused bundle of
semi-efficiency and semi-inefficiency--just as it has made the best
English social type a gentleman, but a gentleman absolutely conditioned,
tempered, and supplemented by a flunky.

While the process of becoming more of a democracy may very well
injure--at any rate for a while--English national consistency, England's
future as a nation is compromised by her fear of democracy. She has
built her national organization on the idea that the national welfare is
better promoted by a popular loyalty which entails popular immobility,
than by the exercise on the part of the people of a more individual and
less subservient intellectual and moral energy. In so doing she has for
the time being renounced one of the greatest advantages of a national
political and social organization--the advantage of combining great
popular energy with loyalty and fertility of association. No doubt
certain nations, because of their perilous international situation, may
be obliged to sacrifice the moral and economic individuality of the
people to the demands of political security and efficiency. But Great
Britain suffered from no such necessity. After the fall of Napoleon, she
was more secure from foreign interference than ever before in her
history; and she could have afforded, with far less risk than France, to
identify her national principle with the work of popular liberation and
amelioration. As a matter of fact, the logic of the reform movement
which began in England soon after the Treaty of Vienna, required the
adoption by England either of more democracy or of less. The privileged
classes should either have fought to preserve their peculiar
responsibility for the national welfare, or else, if they were obliged
to surrender their inherited leadership, they should have also
surrendered their political and social privileges. But Englishmen,
terrified by the disasters which French democratic nationalism had
wrought upon France, preferred domestic harmony to the perils of any
radical readjustment of the balance of their national life. The
aristocracy and the middle classes compromised their differences; and in
the compromise each of them sacrificed the principle upon which the
vitality of its action as a class depended, while both of them combined
to impose subordination on the mass of the people.

Englishmen have, it is true, always remained faithful to their dominant
political idea--the idea of freedom, and the English political and
economic system is precisely the example of the ultimate disadvantage of
basing national cohesion upon the application of such a limited
principle. This principle, as we have seen in the preceding chapter,
always operates for the benefit of a minority, whose whole object, after
they have once won certain peculiar advantages, is to secure their
perpetuation. The wealthy middle class, which at one time was the
backbone of the Liberal party, has for the most part gone over to the
Conservatives, because its interest has become as much opposed to
political and economic egalitarianism as is that of the aristocracy: and
the mass of the English people, whose liberation can never be
accomplished under the existing regime of political and economic
privilege, looks with complacency and awe upon the good time enjoyed by
their betters. Popular bondage is the price of national consistency. A
century of industrial expansion and over half a century of free trade
has left the English people miserably poor and contentedly hopeless; and
in the future the people cannot depend upon any increase even of the
small share of the benefits of industrial expansion, which they have
hitherto obtained, because the national expansion is itself proceeding
at a much slower rate. The dole, which is now being accorded in the
shape of old-age pensions, may fairly be compared to the free
transportation to their homes with which the Bank of Monte Carlo
assuages the feelings of its destitute victims. The national
organization and policy is so arranged that the majority must lose. The
result will be inevitably a diminution of the ability of the United
Kingdom to hold its own in competition with its economic and political
rivals; and in all probability this pressure from the outside will
eventually force the English nation to reconsider the basis of its
political and economic organization and policy.



The recent history and the present position of France illustrate another
phase of the interdependence of the national and the democratic
principles. The vitality of English national life has been impaired by
its identification with an inadequate and aristocratic political
principle. In France the effective vitality of the democracy has been
very much lowered by certain flaws in the integrity of French national
life. France is strong where England is weak and is weak where England
is strong; and this divergence of development is by no means accidental.
Just because they were the first countries to become effectively
nationalized, their action and reaction have been constant and have
served at once to develop and distinguish their national temperaments.
The English invasions accelerated the growth of the French royal power
and weakened domestic resistance to its ambitions. The English
revolutions of the seventeenth century made the Bourbons more than ever
determined to consolidate the royal despotism and to stamp out
Protestantism. The excesses of the French royal despotism brought as a
consequence the excesses of the Revolutionary democracy. The Reign of
Terror in its turn made Englishmen more than ever suspicious of the
application of rational political ideas to the fabric of English
society. So the ball was tossed back and forth--the national temperament
of each people being at once profoundly modified by this action and
reaction and for the same cause profoundly distinguished one from the
other. The association has been more beneficial to France than to
England, because the French, both before and after the Revolution,
really tried to learn something from English political experience,
whereas the English have never been able to discover anything in the
political experience of their neighbors, except an awful example of the
danger of democratic ideas and political and social rationalism.

The ideas of the French democracy were in the beginning revolutionary,
disorderly, and subversive of national consistency and good faith. No
doubt the French democracy had a much better excuse for identifying
democracy with a system of abstract rights and an indiscriminate
individualism than had the American democracy. The shadow of the Old
Regime hung over the country; and it seemed as if the newly won civil
and political rights could be secured only by erecting them into
absolute conditions of just political association and by surrounding
them with every possible guarantee. Moreover, the natural course of the
French democratic development was perverted by foreign interference and
a constant condition of warfare; and if the French nation had been
allowed to seek its own political salvation without interference, as was
this English nation, the French democracy might have been saved many an
error and excess. But whatever excuses may be found for the disorders of
the French democracy, the temporary effect of the democratic idea upon
the national fabric was, undoubtedly, a rending of the roots of their
national stability and good feeling. The successive revolutionary
explosions, which have constituted so much of French history since 1789,
have made France the victim of what sometimes seem to be mutually
exclusive conceptions of French national well-being. The democratic
radicals are "intransigeant." The party of tradition and authority is
"ultramontane." The majority of moderate and sensible people are usually
in control; but their control is unstable. The shadow of the Terror and
the Commune hangs over every serious crisis in French politics. The
radicals jump to the belief that the interests and rights of the people
have been betrayed and that the traitors should be exterminated. Good
Frenchmen suffer during those crises from an obsession of suspicion and
fear. Their mutual loyalty, their sense of fair play, and their natural
kindliness are all submerged under a tyranny of desperate apprehension.
The social bond is unloosed, and the prudent bourgeois thinks only of
the preservation of person and property.

This aspect of the French democracy can, however, easily be
over-emphasized and usually is over-emphasized by foreigners. It is
undoubtedly a living element in the composition of the contemporary
France; but it was less powerful at the time of the Commune than at the
time of the Terror, and is less powerful to-day than it was in 1871.
French political history in the nineteenth century is not to be regarded
as a succession of meaningless revolutions, born of a spirit of reckless
and factious insubordination, but as the route whereby a people,
inexperienced in self-government, have been gradually traveling towards
the kind of self-government best fitted to their needs. It is entirely
possible that the existing Republic, modified perhaps for the purpose of
obtaining a more independent and a more vigorous executive authority,
may in the course of time give France the needed political and social
stability. That form of government which was adopted at the time,
because it divided Frenchmen the least, may become the form of
government which unites Frenchmen by the strongest ties. Bismarck's
misunderstanding of the French national character and political needs
was well betrayed when he favored a Republic rather than a Legitimist
monarchy in France, because a French Republic would, in his opinion,
necessarily keep France a weak and divided neighbor. The Republic has
kept France divided, but it has been less divided than it would have
been under any monarchical government. It has successfully weathered a
number of very grave domestic crises; and its perpetuity will probably
depend primarily upon its ability to secure and advance by practical
means the international standing of France. The Republic has been
obliged to meet a foreign peril more prolonged and more dangerous than
that which has befallen any French government since 1600. From the time
of Richelieu until 1870, France was stronger than any of her continental
neighbors. Unless they were united against her she had little to fear
from them; and her comparative strength tempted her to be aggressive,
careless, and experimental in her foreign policy. That policy was
vacillating, purposeless, and frequently wasteful of the national
resources. Eventually, it compromised the international position of
France. After 1871, for the first time in almost three hundred years,
the very safety of France in a time of peace became actively and gravely
imperiled. The third Republic reaped the fruit of all the former
trifling with the national interest of France and that of its neighbors;
and the resulting danger was and is so ominous and so irretrievable that
it has made and will make for internal stability. If the Republic can
provide for French national defense and can keep for France the position
in Europe to which she is entitled, the Republic will probably endure.
And in that case it will certainly deserve to endure, because it will
have faced and overcome the most exacting possible national peril.

Even the most loyal friend of France can, however, hardly claim that the
French democracy is even yet thoroughly nationalized. It has done
something to obtain national cohesion at home, and to advance the
national interest abroad; but evidences of the traditional dissociation
between French democracy and French national efficiency and consistency
are still plainly visible. Both the domestic and the foreign policies of
the Republic have of late years been weakened by the persistence of a
factious and anti-national spirit among radical French democrats.

The most dangerous symptom of this anti-national democracy is that an
apparently increasing number of educated Frenchmen are rebelling against
the burdens imposed upon the Republic by its perilous international
position. They are tending to seek security and relief, not by
strengthening the national bond and by loyalty to the fabric of their
national life, but by personal disloyalty and national dissolution. The
most extreme of democratic socialists do not hesitate to advocate armed
rebellion against military service in the interest of international
peace. They would fight their fellow-countrymen in order to promote a
union with foreigners. How far views of this kind have come to prevail,
an outsider cannot very well judge; but they are said to be popular
among the school teachers, and to have impaired the discipline of the
army itself. Authoritative French journals claim that France cannot
afford to run the risk of incurring the ill-will of Germany, even in a
good cause, because the country is no longer sure of its military
efficiency. There is no present danger of this anti-nationalist
democracy capturing control of the French government, as did the
revolutionary democracy at an earlier date; but its existence is a
source of weakness to a nation whose perilous international situation
requires the most absolute patriotic devotion on the part of her sons.

Unfortunately, it is also true that the official domestic policy of the
Republic is not informed by a genuinely national spirit. Just as the
English national interest demands the temporary loosening of traditional
bonds for the sake of securing national cohesion at a smaller sacrifice
of popular vitality, so, on the contrary, the French national interest
demands more of the English spirit of compromise for the sake of
national consistency. The wounds dealt to the integrity of French
national life by the domestic conflicts of four generations require
binding and healing. The Third Republic has on the whole been more
national in its domestic policy than were any of the preceding French
governments for over two hundred years; but it has still fallen far
short of its duty in that respect. The healing of one wound has always
been followed by the opening of another. Irreconcilable differences of
opinion still subsist; and they are rarely bridged or dissolved by any
fundamental loyalty of patriotic feeling. The French have as yet been
unable to find in their democracy any conscious ideal of mutual loyalty
which provides a sufficient substitute for a merely instinctive national
tradition. They have not yet come to realize that the success of their
whole democratic experiment depends upon their ability to reach a good
understanding with their fellow-countrymen, and, that just in so far as
their democracy fails to be nationally constructive, it is ignoring the
most essential condition of its own vitality and perpetuity.

The French democracy is confronted by an economic, as well as a
political, problem of peculiar difficulty. The effects of the Revolution
were no less important upon the distribution of wealth in France than
upon the distribution of political power. The people came into the
ownership of the land; and in the course of time the area of this
distribution has been increased rather than diminished. Furthermore, the
laws under which property in France is inherited have promoted a
similarly wide distribution of personal estate. France is a rich
country; and its riches are much more evenly divided than is the case in
Great Britain, Germany, or the United States. There are fewer large
fortunes, and fewer cases of poverty. The average Frenchman is a small,
but extremely thrifty proprietor, who abhors speculation and is always
managing to add something to his accumulations; and the French economic
system is adapted to this peculiar distribution of wealth. The scarcity
in France of iron and coal has checked the tendency to industrial
organization on a huge scale. The strength of the French industrial
system does not consist in the large and efficient use of machinery, but
in its multitude of skilled craftsmen and the excellence of their
handiwork. In a system of this kind, labor naturally receives a large
percentage of the gross product, and a larger proportion of wage-earners
reach an independent economic position. At first sight it looks as if
France was something like a genuine economic democracy, and ought to
escape the evils which threaten other countries from an economic
organization, in which concentrated capital plays a more important part.

But the situation is not without another and less favorable aspect.
France, in becoming a country of small and extremely thrifty property
owners, has also become a country of partial economic parasites with
very little personal initiative and energy. Individual freedom has been
sacrificed to economic and social equality; and this economic and social
equality has not made for national cohesion. The bourgeois, the
mechanic, and the farmer, in so far as they have accumulated property,
are exhibiting an extremely calculating individualism, of which the most
dangerous symptom is the decline in the birth-rate. Frenchmen are
becoming more than ever disinclined to take the risks and assume the
expense of having more than one or two children. The recent outbreak of
anti-militarism is probably merely another illustration of the
increasing desire of the French bourgeois for personal security, and the
opportunity for personal enjoyment. To a foreigner it looks as if the
grave political and social risks, which the French nation has taken
since 1789, had gradually cultivated in individual Frenchmen an
excessive personal prudence, which adds to the store of national wealth,
but which no more conduces to economic, social, and political efficiency
than would the incarceration of a fine army in a fortress conduce to
military success. A nation or an individual who wishes to accomplish
great things must be ready, in Nietsche's phrase, "to lived
angerously"--to take those risks, without which no really great
achievement is possible; and if Frenchmen persist in erecting the virtue
of thrift and the demand for safety into the predominant national
characteristic, they are merely beginning a process of national
corruption and dissolution.

That any such result is at all imminent, I do not for a moment believe.
The time will come when the danger of the present drift will be
understood, and will create its sufficient remedy; and all good friends
of democracy and human advancement should hope and believe that France
will retain indefinitely her national vitality. If she should drift into
an insignificant position in relation to her neighbors, a void would be
created which it would be impossible to fill and which would react
deleteriously upon the whole European system. But such a result is only
to be avoided by the general recognition among Frenchmen that the means
which they are adopting to render their personal position more secure is
rendering their national situation more precarious. The fate of the
French democracy is irrevocably tied up with the fate of French
national life, and the best way for a Frenchman to show himself a good
democrat is to make those sacrifices and to take those risks necessary
for the prestige and welfare of his country.



The German Empire presents still another phase of the relation between
democracy and nationality, and one which helps considerably towards an
understanding of the varied possibilities of that relationship. The
German national organization and policy was wrought in a manner entirely
different from that of either France or England. In the two latter
countries political freedom was conquered only as the result of
successive revolutions; and the ruling classes were obliged to recognize
the source of these political reformations by renouncing all or a large
part of their inherited responsibilities. In Germany, on the other hand,
or rather in Prussia as the maker of modern Germany, the various changes
in the national organization and policy, which have resulted in the
founding of a united nation, originated either with the crown or with
the royal counselors. The Prussian monarchy has, consequently, passed
through the revolutionary period without abandoning its political
leadership of the Prussian state. It has created a national
representative body; but it has not followed the English example and
allowed such a body to tie its hands; and it has remained, consequently,
the most completely responsible and representative monarchy in Europe.

Up to the present time this responsibility and power have on the whole
been deserved by the manner in which they have been exercised. German
nationality as an efficient political and economic force has been
wrought by skillful and patriotic management out of materials afforded
by military and political opportunities and latent national ties and
traditions. During the eighteenth century the Prussian monarchy came to
understand that the road to effective political power in Germany was by
way of a military efficiency, disproportionate to the resources and
population of the Kingdom. In this way it was able to take advantage of
almost every important crisis to increase its dominion and its
prestige. Neither was Prussian national efficiency built up merely by a
well-devised and practicable policy of military aggression. The Prussian
monarchy had the good sense to accept the advice of domestic reformers
during its period of adversity, and so contributed to the economic
liberation and the educational training of its subjects. Thus the modern
German nation has been at bottom the work of admirable leadership on the
part of officially responsible leaders; and among those leaders the man
who planned most effectively and accomplished the greatest results was
Otto von Bismarck.

       *       *       *       *       *

It requires a very special study of European history after 1848 to
understand how bold, how original, how comprehensive, and how adequate
for their purpose Bismarck's ideas and policy gradually became; and it
requires a very special study of Bismarck's own biography to understand
that his personal career, with all its transformations, exhibits an
equally remarkable integrity. The Bismarck of from 1848 to 1851 is
usually described as a country squire, possessed by obscurantist
mediaeval ideas wholly incompatible with his own subsequent policy. But
while there are many superficial contradictions between the country
squire of 1848 and the Prussian Minister and German Chancellor, the
really peculiar quality of Bismarck's intelligence was revealed in his
ability to develop a constructive German national policy out of the
prejudices and ideas of a Prussian "junker." Bismarck, in 1848, was
primarily an ardent Prussian patriot who believed that the monarchy was
divinely authorized to govern the Prussian people, and that any
diminution of this responsibility was false in principle and would be
baleful in its results. These ideas led him, in 1848, to oppose the
constitution, granted by Frederick William IV and to advocate the
repression of all revolutionary upheavals. He never essentially departed
from these principles; but his experience gradually taught him that they
were capable of a different and more edifying application. The point of
view from which his policy, his achievements, and his career can best be
understood is that of a patriotic Prussian who was exclusively,
intelligently, and unscrupulously devoted to the welfare (as he
conceived it) of his country and his king. As a loyal Prussian he wished
to increase Prussian influence among the other German states, because
that was the only way to improve her standing and greatness as a
European Power; and he soon realized that Austria constituted the great
obstacle to any such increase of Prussian influence. He and he only drew
the one sufficient inference from this fact. Inasmuch as Prussia's
future greatness and efficiency depended absolutely on the increase of
her influence in Germany, and inasmuch as Austria barred her path,
Prussia must be prepared to fight Austria, and must make every possible
provision, both diplomatic and military, to bring such a war to a
successful issue. Such a purpose meant, of course, the abandonment of
the policy which Prussia had pursued for a whole generation. The one
interest which Bismarck wanted the Prussian government to promote was
the Prussian interest, no matter whether that interest meant opposition
to the democracy or cooeperation therewith; and the important point in
the realization of this exclusive policy is that he soon found himself
in need of the help of the German democratic movement. His resolute and
candid nationalism in the end forced him to enter into an alliance with
the very democracy which he had begun by detesting.

It must be admitted, also, that he had in the beginning reason to
distrust the Prussian and the German democracy. The German radicals had
sought to compass the unification of Germany by passing resolutions and
making speeches; but such methods, which are indispensable accessories
to the good government of an established national community, were
utterly incompetent to remove the obstacles to German unity. These
obstacles consisted in the particularism of the German princes, the
opposition of Austria, and looming in the background the possible
opposition of France; and Bismarck alone thoroughly understood that such
obstacles could be removed by war and war only. But in order to wage war
successfully, a country must be well-armed; and in the attempt to arm
Prussia so that she would be equal to asserting her interests in
Germany, Bismarck and the king had to face the stubborn opposition of
the Prussian representative assembly. Bismarck did not flinch from
fighting the Prussian assembly in the national interest any more than he
flinched under different circumstances from calling the German democracy
to his aid. When by this policy, at once bold and cautious, of Prussian
aggrandizement, he had succeeded in bringing about war with Austria, he
fearlessly announced a plan of partial unification, based upon the
supremacy of Prussia and a national parliament elected by universal
suffrage; and after the defeat of Austria, he successfully carried this
plan into effect. It so happened that the special interest of Prussia
coincided with the German national interest. It was Prussia's effective
military power which defeated Austria and forced the princes to abate
their particularist pretensions. It was Prussia's comparatively larger
population which made Bismarck insist that the German nation should be
an efficient popular union rather than a mere federation of states. And
it was Bismarck's experience with the anti-nationalism "liberalism" of
the Prussian assembly, elected as it was by a very restricted suffrage,
which convinced him that the national interest could be as well trusted
to the good sense and the patriotism of the whole people as to the
special interests of the "bourgeoisie." Thus little by little the
fertile seed of Bismarck's Prussian patriotism grew into a German
semi-democratic nationalism, and it achieved this transformation without
any essential sacrifice of its own integrity. He had been working in
Prussia's interest throughout, but he saw clearly just where the
Prussian interest blended with the German national interest, and just
what means, whether by way of military force or popular approval, were
necessary for the success of his patriotic policy.

When the Prussian Minister-President became the Imperial Chancellor, he
pursued in the larger field a similar purpose by different means. The
German national Empire had been founded by means of the forcible
coercion of its domestic and foreign opponents. It remained now to
organize and develop the new national state; and the government, under
Bismark's lead, made itself responsible for the task of organization and
development, just as it had made itself responsible for the task of
unification. According to the theories of democratic individualistic
"liberalism," such an effort could only result in failure, because from
the liberal point of view the one way to develop a modern industrial
nation was simply to allow the individual every possible liberty. But
Bismarck's whole scheme of national industrial organization looked in a
very different direction. He believed that the nation itself, as
represented by its official leaders, should actively assist in preparing
an adequate national domestic policy, and in organizing the machinery
for its efficient execution. He saw clearly that the logic and the
purpose of the national type of political organization was entirely
different from that of a so-called free democracy, as explained in the
philosophy of the German liberals of 1848, the Manchester school in
England, or our own Jeffersonian Democrats; and he successfully
transformed his theory of responsible administrative activity into a
comprehensive national policy. The army was, if anything, increased in
strength, so that it might remain fully adequate either for national
defense or as an engine of German international purposes. A beginning
was made toward the creation of a navy. A moderate but explicit
protectionist policy was adopted, aimed not at the special development
either of rural or manufacturing industries, but at the all-round
development of Germany as an independent national economic unit. In
Prussia itself the railways were bought by the government, so that they
should be managed, not in the interest of the shareholders, but in that
of the national economic system. The government encouraged the spread of
bettor farming methods, which have resulted in the gradual increase in
the yield per acre of every important agricultural staple. The
educational system of the country was made of direct assistance to
industry, because it turned out skilled scientific experts, who used
their knowledge to promote industrial efficiency. In every direction
German activity was organized and was placed under skilled professional
leadership, while at the same time each of these special lines of work
was subordinated to its particular place in a comprehensive scheme of
national economy. This "paternalism" has, moreover, accomplished its
purpose. German industrial expansion surpasses in some respects that of
the United States, and has left every European nation far behind.
Germany alone among the modern European nations is, in spite of the
temporary embarrassment of Imperial finance, carrying the cost of modern
military preparation easily, and looks forward confidently to greater
successes in the future. She is at the present time a very striking
example of what can be accomplished for the popular welfare by a
fearless acceptance on the part of the official leaders of economic as
well as political responsibility, and by the efficient and intelligent
use of all available means to that end.

Inevitably, however, Germany is suffering somewhat from the excess of
her excellent qualities. Her leaders were not betrayed by the success of
their foreign and domestic policies to attempt the immediate
accomplishment of purposes, incommensurate with the national power and
resources; but they were tempted to become somewhat overbearing in their
attitude toward their domestic and foreign opponents. No doubt a
position which was conquered by aggressive leadership must be maintained
by aggressive leadership; and no doubt, consequently, the German
Imperial Power could not well avoid the appearance and sometimes the
substance of being domineering. But the consequence of the Bismarckian
tradition of bullying and browbeating one's opponents has been that of
intensifying the opposition to the national policy and of compromising
its success. France has been able to escape from the isolation in which
she was long kept by Bismarck after the war, and has gradually built up
a series of understandings with other Powers, more or less inimical to
Germany. The latter's standing in Europe is not as high as it was ten
years ago, in spite of the increased relative efficiency of her army,
her navy, and her economic system. Moreover, an equally serious and
dangerous opposition has been created at home. The government has not
succeeded in retaining the loyal support of a large fraction of the
German people. A party which is composed for the most part of
workingmen, and which has been increasing steadily in the number of its
adherents, is utterly opposed to the present policy and organization of
the Imperial government; and those Social Democrats have for the most
part been treated by the authorities with repressive laws and abusive
epithets. Thus a schism is being created in the German national system
which threatens to become a source of serious weakness to the national
efficiency and strength.

That the existence of some such domestic opposition is to a certain
extent unavoidable must be admitted. A radical incompatibility exists
between the national policy of the Imperial and Prussian governments and
the Social Democratic programme; and the Imperial authorities could not
conciliate the Social Democrats without abandoning the peculiar
organization and policy which have been largely so responsible for the
extraordinary increase in the national well-being. On the other hand, it
must also be remembered that the Prussian royal power has maintained its
nationally representative character and its responsible leadership quite
as much by its ability to meet legitimate popular grievances and needs
as by its successful foreign policy. The test of German domestic
statesmanship hereafter will consist in its ability to win the support
of the industrial democracy, created by the industrial advance of the
country, without impairing the traditional and the existing practice of
expert and responsible leadership. The task is one of extreme
difficulty, but it is far from being wholly impossible, because the
Social Democratic party in Germany is every year becoming less
revolutionary and more national in its outlook. But at present little
attempt is being made at conciliation; and the attitude of the ruling
classes is such that in the near future none is likely to be made. In
this respect they are false to the logic of the origin of German
political unity. The union was accomplished with the assistance of the
democracy and on a foundation of universal suffrage. As Germany has
become more of a nation, the democracy has acquired more substantial
power; but its increase in numbers and weight has not been accompanied
by any increase of official recognition. The political organization of
Germany is consequently losing touch with those who represent one
essential aspect of the national growth. It behooves the ruling classes
to tread warily, or they may have to face a domestic opposition more
dangerous than any probable foreign opposition.

The situation is complicated by the dubious international standing of
the German Empire. She is partly surrounded by actual and possible
enemies, against whom she can make headway only by means of continuous
vigilance and efficient leadership; while at the same time her own
national ambitions still conflict in some measure with the interests of
her neighbors. Her official foreign policy since 1872 has undoubtedly
been determined by the desire to maintain the peace of Europe under
effective guarantees, because she needed time to consolidate her
position and reap the advantages of her increasing industrial
efficiency; but both German and European statesmen are none the less
very conscious of the fact that the German Empire is the European Power
which has most to gain in Europe from a successful war. Some Frenchmen
still cherish plans of revenge for 1870; but candid French opinion is
beginning to admit that the constantly increasing resources of Germany
in men and money make any deliberate policy of that kind almost
suicidal. France would lose much more by a defeat than she could gain
from a victory, and the fruits of victory could not be permanently held.
Italy, also, has no unsatisfied ambition which a war could gratify,
except the addition of a few thousand Austrian-Italians to her
population. Russia still looks longingly toward Constantinople; but
until she has done something to solve her domestic problem and
reorganize her finances, she needs peace rather than war. But the past
successes of Germany and her new and increasing expansive power tempt
her to cherish ambitions which constitute the chief menace to the
international stability of Europe. She would have much to lose, but she
would also have something to gain from the possible disintegration of
Austria-Hungary. She has possibly still more to gain from the
incorporation of Holland within the Empire. Her increasing commerce has
possessed her with the idea of eventually disputing the supremacy of the
sea with Great Britain. And she unquestionably expects to profit in Asia
Minor from the possible break-up of the Ottoman Empire. How seriously
such ambitions are entertained, it is difficult to say; and it is wholly
improbable that more than a small part of this enormous programme of
national aggrandizement will ever be realized. But when Germany has the
chance of gaining and holding such advantages as these from a successful
war, it is no wonder that she remains the chief possible disturber of
the European peace. In her case certainly the fruits of victory look
more seductive than the penalties of defeat look dangerous; and the
resolute opposition to the partial disarmament, which she has always
offered at the Hague Conference, is the best evidence of the unsatisfied
nature of her ambitions.

Germany's standing in the European system is, then, very far from being
as well-defined as are those of the older nations, like France and Great
Britain. The gradual growth of a better understanding between France,
Great Britain, and Russia is largely due to an instinctive coalition of
those powers who would be most injured by an increase of the German
influence and dominion; and the sense that Europe is becoming united
against them makes German statesmen more than ever on their guard and
more than ever impatient of an embarrassing domestic opposition. Thus
Germany's aggressive foreign policy has so far tended to increase the
distance between her responsible leaders and the popular party; and
there are only two ways in which this schism can be healed. If German
foreign policy should continue to be as brilliantly successful as it was
in the days of Bismarck, the authorities will have no difficulty in
retaining the support of a sufficient majority of the German
people--just as the victory over Austria brought King William and
Bismarck forgiveness from their parliamentary opponents. On the other
hand, any severe setback to Germany in the realization of its aggressive
plans would strengthen the domestic opposition and might lead to a
severe internal crisis. It all depends upon whether German national
policy has or has not overstepped the limits of practical and permanent



The foregoing considerations in respect to the existing international
situation of Germany bring me to another and final aspect of the
relation in Europe between nationality and democracy. One of the most
difficult and (be it admitted) one of the most dubious problems raised
by any attempt to establish a constructive relationship between those
two principles hangs on the fact that hitherto national development has
not apparently made for international peace. The nations of Europe are
to all appearances as belligerent as were the former European dynastic
states. Europe has become a vast camp, and its governments are spending
probably a larger proportion of the resources of their countries for
military and naval purposes than did those of the eighteenth century.
How can these warlike preparations, in which all the European nations
share, and the warlike spirit which they have occasionally displayed, be
reconciled with the existence of any constructive relationship between
the national and the democratic ideas?

The question can best be answered by briefly reviewing the claims
already advanced on behalf of the national principle. I have asserted
from the start that the national principle was wholly different in
origin and somewhat different in meaning from the principle of
democracy. What has been claimed for nationality is, not that it can be
identified with democracy, but that as a political principle it remained
unsatisfied without an infusion of democracy. But the extent to which
this infusion can go and the forms which it takes are determined by a
logic and a necessity very different from that of an absolute democratic
theory. National politics have from the start aimed primarily at
efficiency--that is, at the successful use of the force resident in the
state to accomplish the purposes desired by the Sovereign authority.
Among the group of states inhabited by Christian peoples it has
gradually been discovered that the efficient use of force is contingent
in a number of respects upon its responsible use; and that its
responsible use means a limited policy of external aggrandizement and a
partial distribution of political power and responsibilities. A national
polity, however, always remains an organization based upon force. In
internal affairs it depends at bottom for its success not merely upon
public opinion, but, if necessary, upon the strong arm. It is a matter
of government and coercion as well as a matter of influence and
persuasion. So in its external relations its standing and success have
depended, and still depend, upon the efficient use of force, just in so
far as force is demanded by its own situation and the attitudes of its
neighbors and rivals. The democrats who disparage efficient national
organization are at bottom merely seeking to exorcise the power of
physical force in human affairs by the use of pious incantations and
heavenly words. That they will never do. The Christian warrior must
accompany the evangelist; and Christians are not by any means angels. It
is none the less true that the modern nations control the expenditure of
more force in a more responsible manner than have any preceding
political organizations; and it is none the less true that a further
development of the national principle will mean in the end the
attachment of still stricter responsibilities to the use of force both
in the internal and external policies of modern nations.

War may be and has been a useful and justifiable engine of national
policy. It is justifiable, moreover, not merely in such a case as our
Civil War, in which a people fought for their own national integrity.
It was, I believe, justifiable, in the case of the two wars which
preceded the formation of the modern German Empire. These wars may,
indeed, be considered as decisive instances. Prussia did not drift into
them, as we drifted into the Civil War. They were deliberately provoked
by Bismarck at a favorable moment, because they were necessary to the
unification of the German people under Prussian leadership; and I do not
hesitate to say that he can be justified in the assumption of this
enormous responsibility. The German national organization means
increased security, happiness, and opportunity of development for the
whole German people; and inasmuch as the selfish interests of Austria
and France blocked the path, Bismarck had his sufficient warrant for a
deliberately planned attack. No doubt such an attack and its results
injured France and the French people just as it has benefited Germany;
but France had to suffer that injury as a penalty for the part she had
as a matter of policy played in German affairs. For centuries a united
France had helped to maintain for her own purposes a divided Germany;
and when Germany herself became united, it was inevitable, as Bismarck
foresaw in 1848, that French opposition must be forcibly removed, and
some of the fruits of French aggression be reclaimed. That the
restitution demanded went further than was necessary, I fully believe;
but the partial abuse of victory does not diminish the legitimacy of the
German aggression. A war waged for an excellent purpose contributes more
to human amelioration than a merely artificial peace,--such as that
established by the Holy Alliance. The unification of Germany and Italy
has not only helped to liberate the energies of both the German and the
Italian people, but it has made the political divisions of Europe
conform much more nearly to the lines within which the people of Europe
can loyally and fruitfully associate one with another. In fact, the
whole national movement, if it has increased the preparations for war,
has diminished in number of probable causes thereof; and it is only by
diminishing the number of causes whereby a nation has more to gain from
victory than it has to lose by defeat that war among the civilized
powers can be gradually extinguished.

At the present time it is, as we have seen, the international situation
and the national ambitions of Russia and Germany which constitute the
chief threat to European peace. Germany's existing position in Europe
depends upon its alliance with Austria-Hungary. The Habsburg Empire is
an incoherent and unstable state which is held together only by dynastic
ties and external pressure. The German, the Austrian, and the Hungarian
interests all demand the perpetuation of the Habsburg dominion; but it
is doubtful whether in the long run its large Slavic population will not
combine with its blood neighbors to break the bond. But whether the
German, Austrian, and Hungarian interest does or does not prevail, the
fundamental national interests, which are compromised by the precarious
stability of Austria-Hungary, are alone sufficient to make disarmament
impossible. Disarmament means the preservation of Europe in its existing
condition; and such a policy, enforced by means of international
guarantees, would be almost as inimical to the foundation of a permanent
and satisfactory international system now as it was in 1820. The fact
has to be recognized that the ultimate object of a peaceable and stable
European international situation cannot in all probability be reached
without many additional wars; and the essential point is that these
wars, when they come, should, like the wars between Austria or France
and Prussia, or like our Civil War, be fought to accomplish a desirable
purpose and should be decisive in result.

Modern conflicts between efficiently organized nations tend to obtain
just this character. They are fought for a defensible purpose, and they
accomplish a definite result. The penalties of defeat are so disastrous
that warfare is no longer wantonly incurred; and it will not be provoked
at all by nations, such as Italy or France, who have less to gain from
victory than they have to lose from defeat. Moreover, the cost of
existing armaments is so crushing that an ever increasing motive exists
in favor of their ultimate reduction. This motive will not operate as
long as the leading Powers continue to have unsatisfied ambitions which
look practicable; but eventually it will necessarily have its effect.
Each war, as it occurs, even if it does not finally settle some
conflicting claims, will most assuredly help to teach the warring
nations just how far they can go, and will help, consequently, to
restrict its subsequent policy within practicable and probably
inoffensive limits. It is by no means an accident that England and
France, the two oldest European nations, are the two whose foreign
policies are best defined and, so far as Europe is concerned, least
offensive. For centuries these Powers fought and fought, because one of
them had aggressive designs which apparently or really affected the
welfare of the other; but the result of this prolonged rivalry has been
a constantly clearer understanding of their respective national
interests. Clear-headed and moderate statesmen like Talleyrand
recognized immediately after the Revolution that the substantial
interests of a liberalized France in Europe were closely akin to those
of Great Britain, and again and again in the nineteenth century this
prophecy was justified. Again and again the two Powers were brought
together by their interests only to be again divided by a tradition of
antagonism and misunderstanding. At present, however, they are probably
on better terms than ever before in the history of their relations; and
this result is due to the definite and necessarily unaggressive
character of their European interests. They have finally learned the
limits of their possible achievement and could transgress them only by
some act of folly.

In the course of another fifty years the limits of possible aggression
by Germany and Russia in Europe will probably be very much better
defined than they are to-day. These two Powers will seek at the
favorable moment to accomplish certain aggressive purposes which they
secretly or openly entertain, and they will succeed or fail. Each
success or failure will probably be decisive in certain respects, and
will remove one or more existing conflicts of interest or ambiguities of
position. Whether this progressive specification of the practicable
foreign policies of the several Powers will soon or will ever go so far
as to make some general international understanding possible, is a
question which no man can answer; but as long as the national principle
retains its vitality, there is no other way of reaching a permanent and
fruitful international settlement. That any one nation, or any small
group of nations, can impose its dominion upon Europe is contrary to
every lesson of European history. Such a purpose would be immeasurably
beyond the power even of 90,000,000 Germans or 150,000,000 Russians, or
even beyond the power of 90,000,000 Germans allied with 150,000,000
Russians. Europe is capable of combining more effectually than ever
before to resist any possible revival of imperialism; and the time will
come when Europe, threatened by the aggression of any one domineering
Power, can call other continents to her assistance. The limits to the
possible expansion of any one nation are established by certain
fundamental and venerable political conditions. The penalties of
persistent transgression would be not merely a sentence of piracy
similar to that passed on Napoleon I, but a constantly diminishing
national vitality on the part of the aggressor. As long as the national
principle endures, political power cannot be exercised irresponsibly
without becoming inefficient and sterile.

Inimical as the national principle is to the carrying out either of a
visionary or a predatory foreign policy in Europe, it does not imply any
similar hostility to a certain measure of colonial expansion. In this,
as in many other important respects, the constructive national democrat
must necessarily differ from the old school of democratic "liberals." A
nationalized democracy is not based on abstract individual rights, no
matter whether the individual lives in Colorado, Paris, or Calcutta. Its
consistency is chiefly a matter of actual historical association in the
midst of a general Christian community of nations. A people that lack
the power of basing their political association on an accumulated
national tradition and purpose is not capable either of nationality or
democracy; and that is the condition of the majority of Asiatic and
African peoples. A European nation can undertake the responsibility of
governing these politically disorganized societies without any necessary
danger to its own national life. Such a task need not be beyond its
physical power, because disorganized peoples have a comparatively small
power of resistance, and a few thousand resolute Europeans can hold in
submission many million Asiatics. Neither does it conflict with the
moral basis of a national political organization, because at least for a
while the Asiatic population may well be benefited by more orderly and
progressive government. Submission to such a government is necessary as
a condition of subsequent political development. The majority of Asiatic
and African communities can only got a fair start politically by some
such preliminary process of tutelage; and the assumption by a European
nation of such a responsibility in a desirable phase of national
discipline and a frequent source of genuine national advance.

Neither does an aggressive colonial policy make for unnecessary or
meaningless wars. It is true, of course, that colonial expansion
increases the number of possible occasions for dispute among the
expanding nations; but these disputes have the advantage of rarely
turning on questions really vital to the future prosperity of a European
nation. They are just the sort of international differences of interest
which ought to be settled by arbitration or conciliation, because both
of the disputants have so much more to lose by hostilities than they
have to gain by military success. A dispute turning upon a piece of
African territory would, if it waxed into war, involve the most awful
and dangerous consequences in Europe. The danger of European wars,
except for national purposes of prime importance, carries its
consequence into Africa and Asia. France, for instance, was very much
irritated by the continued English occupation of Egypt in spite of
certain solemn promises of evacuation; and the expedition of Marchand,
which ended in the Fashoda incident, indirectly questioned the validity
of the British occupation of Egypt by making that occupation
strategically insecure. In spite, however, of the deliberate manner in
which France raised this question and of the highly irritated condition
of French public opinion, she could not, when the choice had to be made,
afford the consequences of a Franco-English war. In the end she was
obliged to seek compensation elsewhere in Africa and abandon her
occupation of Fashoda. This incident is typical; and it points directly
to the conclusion that wars will very rarely occur among European
nations over disputes as to colonies, unless the political situation in
Europe is one which itself makes war desirable or inevitable. A Bismarck
could handle a Fashoda incident so as to provoke hostilities, but in
that case Fashoda, like the Hohenzollern candidacy in Spain, would be a
pretext, not a cause. The one contemporary instance in which a
difference of colonial interests has caused a great war is the recent
conflict between Russia and Japan; and in this instance the issues
raised by the dispute were essentially different from the issues raised
by a dispute over a colonial question between two European nations. The
conflict of interests turned upon matter essential to the future
prosperity of Japan, while at the same time the war did not necessarily
involve dangerous European complications.

The truth is that colonial expansion by modern national states is to be
regarded, not as a cause of war, but as a safety-valve against war. It
affords an arena in which the restless and adventurous members of a
national body can have their fling without dangerous consequences, while
at the same time it satisfies the desire of a people for some evidence
of and opportunity for national expansion. The nations which, one after
another, have recognized the limits of their expansion in Europe have
been those which have adopted a more or less explicit policy of colonial
acquisition. Spain was, indeed, a great colonial power at a time when
her policy in Europe continued to be aggressive; but her European
aggressions soon undermined her national vitality, and her decadence in
Europe brought her colonial expansion to a standstill. Portugal and
Holland were too small to cherish visions of European aggrandizement,
and they naturally sought an outlet in Asia and Africa for their
energies. After Great Britain had passed through her revolutionary
period, she made rapid advances as a colonial power, because she
realized that her insular situation rendered a merely defensive European
policy obligatory. France made a failure of her American and Asiatic
colonies as long as she cherished schemes of European aggrandizement.
Her period of colonial expansion, Algeria apart, did not come until
after the Franco-Prussian War and the death of her ambition for a Rhine
frontier. Bismarck was opposed to colonial development because he
believed that Germany should husband her strength for the preservation
and the improvement of her standing in Europe; but Germany's power of
expansion demanded some outlet during a period of European rest.
Throughout the reign of the present Emperor she has been picking up
colonies wherever she could in Asia and Africa; and she cherishes
certain plans for the extension of German influence in Asia Minor. It is
characteristic of the ambiguous international position of Germany that
she alone among the European Powers (except the peculiar case of Russia)
is expectant of an increase of power both in Europe and other

In the long run Germany will, like France, discover that under existing
conditions an aggressive colonial and aggressive European policy are
incompatible. The more important her colonies become and the larger her
oceanic commerce, the more Germany lays herself open to injury from a
strong maritime power, and the more hostages she is giving for good
behavior in Europe. Unless a nation controls the sea, colonies are from
a military point of view a source of weakness. The colonizing nation is
in the position of a merchant who increases his business by means of a
considerable increase of his debts. His use of the borrowed capital may
be profitable, but none the less he makes his standing at the time of an
emergency much more precarious. In the same way colonies add to the
responsibilities of a nation and scatter its military resources; and a
nation placed in such a situation is much less likely to break the

The economic and political development of Asia and Africa by the
European Powers is in its infancy; and no certain predictions can be
made as to its final effects upon the political relations among
civilized nations. Many important questions in respect thereto remain
ambiguous. What, for instance, are the limits of a practicable policy of
colonial expansion? In view of her peculiar economic condition and her
threatened decrease in population have those limits been transgressed by
France? Have they been transgressed by Great Britain? Considering the
enormous increase in British responsibilities imposed by the maritime
expansion of Germany, will not Great Britain be obliged to adopt a
policy of concentration rather than expansion? Is not her partial
retirement from American waters the first step in such a policy? Is not
the Japanese alliance a dubious device for the partial shifting of
burdens too heavy to bear? How long can Great Britain afford to maintain
her existing control of the sea? Is there any way of ending such a
control save either by the absolute exhaustion of Great Britain or by
the establishment of a stable international system under adequate
guarantees? Will the economic development of Asia lead to the awakening
of other Asiatic states like Japan, and the re-arrangement of
international relations for the purpose of giving them their appropriate
places? A multitude of such questions are raised by the transformation
which is taking place from a European international system into a
political system composed chiefly of European nations, but embracing the
whole world; and these questions will prove to be sufficiently difficult
of solution. But in spite of the certainty that colonial expansion will
in the end merely transfer to a larger area the conflicts of idea and
interest whose effects have hitherto chiefly been confined to Europe--in
spite of this certainty the process of colonial expansion is a wholly
legitimate aspect of national development, and is not necessarily
inimical to the advance of democracy. It will not make immediately for a
permanent international settlement; but it is accomplishing a work
without which a permanent international settlement is impossible; and it
indubitably places every colonizing nation in a situation which makes
the risk of hostilities dangerous compared to the possible advantages of
military success.

The chief object of this long digression, has, I hope, now been
achieved. My purpose has been to exhibit the European nations as a group
of historic individuals with purposes, opportunities, and limitations
analogous to those of actual individuals. An individual has no meaning
apart from the society in which his individuality has been formed. A
national state is capable of development only in relation to the society
of more or less nationalized states in the midst of which its history
has been unfolded. The growing and maturing individual is he who comes
to take a more definite and serviceable position in his surrounding
society,--he who performs excellently a special work adapted to his
abilities. The maturing nation is in the same way the nation which is
capable of limiting itself to the performance of a practicable and
useful national work,--a work which in some specific respect accelerates
the march of Christian civilization. There is no way in which a higher
type of national life can be obtained without a corresponding individual
improvement on the part of its constituent members. There is similarly
no way in which a permanently satisfactory system of international
relations can be secured, save by the increasing historical experience
and effective self-control of related nations. Any country which
declares that it is too good (or too democratic) to associate with other
nations and share the responsibilities and opportunities resulting from
such association is comparable to the individual who declares himself to
be too saintly for association with his fellow-countrymen. Whatever a
man or a nation gains by isolation, he or it necessarily loses in the
discipline of experience with its possible fruits of wisdom and
self-control. Association is a condition of individuality. International
relations are a condition of nationality. A universal nation is as much
a contradiction in terms as a universal individual. A nation seeking to
destroy other nations is analogous to a man who seeks to destroy the
society in which he was born. Little by little European history has been
teaching this lesson; and in the course of time the correlation of
national development with the improvement and definition of
international relations will probably be embodied in some set of
international institutions.

In the meantime the existing rivalries and enmities among European
states must not be under-estimated either in their significance or their
strength. In a way those rivalries have become more intense than ever
before; and it is only too apparent that the many-headed rulers of
modern nations are as capable of cherishing personal and national
dislikes as were the sovereign kings of other centuries. These rivalries
and enmities will not be dissolved by kind words and noble sentiments.
The federation of Europe, like the unification of Germany, will never be
brought about by congresses and amicable resolutions. It can be effected
only by the same old means of blood and iron. The nations will never
agree upon a permanent settlement until they have more to gain from
peace than from military victory. But such a time will be postponed all
the longer unless the nations, like France, Italy, England and the
United States, which are at present sincerely desirous of peace, keep as
well armed as their more belligerent neighbors. When the tug comes, the
issue will depend upon the effective force which such nations, when
loyally combined, can exert. It would be fatal, consequently, for the
pacific Powers to seek to establish peace by a partial diminution of
their military efficiency. Such an action would merely encourage the
belligerent Powers to push their aggressive plans to the limit. The
former must, on the contrary, keep as well armed as their resources and
policy demand. Nationality is impaired and the national principle is
violated just as soon as a nation neglects any sort of efficiency which
is required either by its international position or by its national




The foregoing review of the relation which has come to subsist in Europe
between nationality and democracy should help us to understand the
peculiar bond which unites the American democratic and national
principles. The net result of that review was encouraging but not
decisive. As a consequence of their development as nations, the European
peoples have been unable to get along without a certain infusion of
democracy; but it was for the most part essential to their national
interest that such an infusion should be strictly limited. In Europe the
two ideals have never been allowed a frank and unconstrained relation
one to the other other. They have been unable to live apart; but their
marriage has usually been one of convenience, which was very far from
implying complete mutual dependence and confidence. No doubt the
collective interests of the German or British people suffer because such
a lack of dependence and confidence exists; but their collective
interests would suffer more from a sudden or violent attempt to destroy
the barriers. The nature and the history of the different democratic and
national movements in the several European countries at once tie them
together and keep them apart.

The peoples of Europe can only escape gradually from the large infusion
of arbitrary and irrational material in their national composition.
Monarchical and aristocratic traditions and a certain measure of
political and social privilege have remained an essential part of their
national lives; and no less essential was an element of defiance in
their attitude toward their European neighbors. Hence, when the
principle of national Sovereignty was proclaimed as a substitute for the
principal of royal Sovereignty, that principle really did not mean the
sudden bestowal upon the people of unlimited Sovereign power. "The true
people," said Bismarck, in 1847, then a country squire, "is an invisible
multitude of spirits. It is the living nation--the nation organized for
its historical mission--the nation of yesterday and of to-morrow." A
nation, that is, is a people in so far as they are united by traditions
and purposes; and national Sovereignty implies an attachment to national
history and traditions which permits only the very gradual alteration of
these traditions in the direction of increasing democracy. The mistake
which France made at the time of the French Revolution was precisely
that of interpreting the phrase "souvrenete nationale" as equivalent to
immediate, complete, and (in respect to the past) irresponsible popular

The European nations are, consequently, not in a position to make their
national ideals frankly and loyally democratic. Their national integrity
depends upon fidelity to traditional ideas and forms quite as much as it
does upon the gradual modification of those ideas and forms in a
democratic direction. The orderly unfolding of their national lives
calls for a series of compromises which carry the fundamental democratic
implication of the national principle as far as it can under the
circumstances be safely carried; and in no other way does a people
exhibit its political common sense so clearly as in its ability to be
contemporary and progressive without breaking away from its historical
anchorage. A comparatively definite national mission and purpose clearly
emerge at some particular phase of the indefinite process of internal
and external readjustment; but such a mission and such purposes
necessarily possess a limited significance and a special character.
Restricted as they are by the facts of national history, they lack the
ultimate moral significance of the democratic ideal, which permits the
transformation of patriotic fidelity into devotion to the highest and
most comprehensive interests of humanity and civilization.

That an analogous condition exists in our own country, it would be vain
to deny. The American people possessed a collective character even
before they possessed a national organization; and both before and after
the foundation of a national government, these common traditions were by
no means wholly democratic. Furthermore, as we have frequently had
occasion to observe, the American democracy in its traditional form has
more often than not been anti-national in instinct and idea. Our own
country has, consequently, a problem to solve, similar in certain
respects to that of the European nations. Its national cohesion is a
matter of historical association, and the facts of its historical
association have resulted in a partial division and a misunderstanding
between its two fundamental principles--the principles of nationality
and democracy.

In the case of the United States there is, however, to be observed an
essential difference. A nation, and particularly a European nation,
cannot afford to become too complete a democracy all at once, because it
would thereby be uprooting traditions upon which its national cohesion
depends. But there is no reason why a democracy cannot trust its
interests absolutely to the care of the national interest, and there is
in particular every reason why the American democracy should become in
sentiment and conviction frankly, unscrupulously, and loyally
nationalist. This, of course, is a heresy from the point of view of the
American democratic tradition; but it is much less of a heresy from the
point of view of American political practice, and, whether heretical or
not, it indicates the road whereby alone the American people can obtain
political salvation.

The American democracy can trust its interest to the national interest,
because American national cohesion is dependent, not only upon certain
forms of historical association, but upon fidelity to a democratic
principle. A nation is a very complex political, social, and economic
product--so complex that political thinkers in emphasizing one aspect of
it are apt to forget other and equally essential aspects. Its habits and
traditions of historical association constitute an indispensable bond;
but they do not constitute the only bond. A specific national character
is more than a group of traditions and institutions. It tends to be a
formative idea, which defines the situation of a country in reference to
its neighbors, and which is constantly seeking a better articulation and
understanding among the various parts of its domestic life. The English
national idea is chiefly a matter of freedom, but the principle of
freedom is associated with a certain in measure of responsibility. The
German national idea is more difficult of precise description, but it
turns upon the principle of efficient and expert official leadership
toward what is as yet a hazy goal of national greatness. The French
national idea is democratic, but its democracy is rendered difficult by
French national insecurity, and its value is limited by its equalitarian
bias. The French, like the American, democracy needs above all to be
thoroughly nationalized; and a condition of such a result is the loyal
adoption of democracy as the national idea. Both French and American
national cohesion depend upon the fidelity of the national organization
to the democratic idea, and the gradual but intentional transformation
of the substance of the national life in obedience to a democratic

Let us seek for this complicated formula a specific application. How can
it be translated into terms of contemporary American conditions? Well,
in the first place, Americans are tied together by certain political,
social, and economic habits, institutions, and traditions. From the
political point of view these forms of association are at once
constitutional, Federal, and democratic. They are accustomed to some
measure of political centralization, to a larger measure of local
governmental responsibility, to a still larger measure of individual
economic freedom. This group of political institutions and habits has
been gradually pieced together under the influence of varying political
ideas and conditions. It contains many contradictory ingredients, and
not a few that are positively dangerous to the public health. Such as it
is, however, the American people are attached to this national
tradition; and no part of it could be suddenly or violently transformed
or mutilated without wounding large and important classes among the
American people, both in their interests and feelings. They have been
accustomed to associate under certain conditions and on certain terms;
and to alter in any important way those conditions and terms of
association without fair notice, full discussion, a demonstrable need
and a sufficient consent of public opinion, would be to drive a wedge
into the substance of American national cohesion. The American nation,
no matter how much (or how little) it may be devoted to democratic
political and social ideas, cannot uproot any essential element in its
national tradition without severe penalties--as the American people
discovered when they decided to cut negro slavery out of their national

On the other hand, their national health and consistency were in the
long run very much benefited by the surgical operation of the Civil War;
and it was benefited because the War eradicated the most flagrant
existing contradiction among the various parts of the American national
tradition. This instance sufficiently showed, consequently, that
although nationality has its traditional basis, it is far from being
merely a conservative principle. At any one time the current of national
public opinion embodies a temporary accommodation among the different
traditional ideas, interests, conditions, and institutions. This balance
of varying and perhaps conflicting elements is constantly being
destroyed by new conditions,--such, for instance, as the gradual
increase before the Civil War of the North as compared to the South in
wealth, population, and industrial efficiency. The effect of this
destruction of the traditional balance was to bring out the
contradiction between the institution of negro slavery and the American
democratic purpose--thereby necessitating an active conflict, and the
triumph of one of these principles over the other. The unionist
democracy conquered, and as the result of that conquest a new balance
was reached between the various ingredients of American national life.
During the past generation, the increased efficiency of organization in
business and politics, the enormous growth of an irresponsible
individual money-power, the much more definite division of the American
people into possibly antagonistic classes, and the pressing practical
need for expert, responsible, and authoritative leadership,--these new
conditions and demands have been by way of upsetting once more the
traditional national balance and of driving new wedges into American
national cohesion. New contradictions have been developed between
various aspects of the American national composition; and if the
American people wish to escape the necessity of regaining their health
by means of another surgical operation, they must consider carefully how
much of a reorganization of traditional institutions, policy, and ideas
are necessary for the achievement of a new and more stable national

In the case of our own country, however, a balance is not to be struck
merely by the process of compromise in the interest of harmony. Our
forbears tried that method in dealing with the slavery problem from
1820 to 1850, and we all know with what results. American national
cohesion is a matter of national integrity; and national integrity is a
matter of loyalty to the requirements of a democratic ideal. For better
or worse the American people have proclaimed themselves to be a
democracy, and they have proclaimed that democracy means popular
economic, social, and moral emancipation. The only way to regain their
national balance is to remove those obstacles which the economic
development of the country has placed in the path of a better democratic
fulfillment. The economic and social changes of the past generation have
brought out a serious and a glaring contradiction between the demands of
a constructive democratic ideal and the machinery of methods and
institutions, which have been considered sufficient for its realization.
This is the fundamental discrepancy which must be at least partially
eradicated before American national integrity can be triumphantly
re-affirmed. The cohesion, which is a condition of effective
nationality, is endangered by such a contradiction, and as long as it
exists the different elements composing American society will be pulling
apart rather than together. The national principle becomes a principle
of reform and reconstruction, precisely because national consistency is
constantly demanding the solution of contradictory economic and
political tendencies, brought out by alterations in the conditions of
economic and political efficiency. Its function is not only to preserve
a balance among these diverse tendencies, but to make that balance more
than ever expressive of a consistent and constructive democratic ideal.
Any disloyalty to democracy on the part of American national policy
would in the end prove fatal to American national unity.

The American democracy can, consequently, safely trust its genuine
interests to the keeping of those who represent the national interest.
It both can do so, and it must do so. Only by faith in an efficient
national organization and by an exclusive and aggressive devotion to the
national welfare, can the American democratic ideal be made good. If the
American local commonwealths had not been wrought by the Federalists
into the form of a nation, they would never have continued to be
democracies; and the people collectively have become more of a democracy
in proportion as they have become more of a nation. Their democracy is
to be realized by means of an intensification of their national life,
just as the ultimate moral purpose of an individual is to be realized by
the affirmation and intensification of its own better individuality.
Consequently the organization of the American democracy into a nation is
not to be regarded in the way that so many Americans have regarded
it,--as a necessary but hazardous surrender of certain liberties in
order that other liberties might be better preserved,--as a mere
compromise between the democratic ideal and the necessary conditions of
political cohesion and efficiency. Its nationalized political
organization constitutes the proper structure and veritable life of the
American democracy. No doubt the existing organization is far from being
a wholly adequate expression of the demands of the democratic ideal, but
it falls equally short of being an adequate expression of the demands of
the national ideal. The less confidence the American people have in a
national organization, the less they are willing to surrender themselves
to the national spirit, the worse democrats they will be. The most
stubborn impediments which block the American national advance issue
from the imperfections in our democracy. The American people are not
prepared for a higher form of democracy, because they are not prepared
for a more coherent and intense national life. When they are prepared to
be consistent, constructive, and aspiring democrats, their preparation
will necessarily take the form of becoming consistent, constructive, and
aspiring nationalists.

The difficulty raised by European political and economic development
hangs chiefly on a necessary loyalty to a national tradition and
organization which blocks the advance of democracy. Americans cannot
entirely escape this difficulty; but in our country by far the greater
obstacle to social amelioration is constituted by a democratic theory
and tradition, which blocks the process of national development. We
Americans are confronted by two divergent theories of democracy.
According to one of these theories, the interest of American democracy
can be advanced only by an increasing nationalization of the American
people in ideas, in institutions, and in spirit. According to the other
of these theories, the most effective way of injuring the interest of
democracy is by an increase in national authority and a spread of the
national leaven. Thus Americans, unlike Englishmen, have to choose, not
between a specific and efficient national tradition and a vague and
perilous democratic ideal--they have to choose between two democratic
ideals, and they have to make this choice chiefly on logical and moral
grounds. An Englishman or a German, no matter how clear his intelligence
or fervid his patriotism, cannot find any immediately and entirely
satisfactory method of reconciling the national traditions and forms of
organization with the demands of an uncompromising democracy. An
American, on the other hand, has it quite within his power to accept a
conception of democracy which provides for the substantial integrity of
his country, not only as a nation with an exclusively democratic
mission, but as a democracy with an essentially national career.



The Federal political organization has always tended to confuse to the
American mind the relation between democracy and nationality. The nation
as a legal body was, of course, created by the Constitution, which
granted to the central government certain specific powers and
responsibilities, and which almost to the same extent diminished the
powers and the responsibilities of the separate states. Consequently, to
the great majority of Americans, the process of increasing
nationalization has a tendency to mean merely an increase in the
functions of the central government. For the same reason the affirmation
of a constructive relation between the national and the democratic
principles is likely to be interpreted merely as an attempt on the
grounds of an abstract theory to limit state government and to disparage
states rights. Such an interpretation, however, would be essentially
erroneous. It would be based upon the very idea against which I have
been continually protesting--the idea that the American nation, instead
of embodying a living formative political principle, is merely the
political system created by the Federal Constitution; and it would end
in the absurd conclusion that the only way in which the Promise of
American democracy can be fulfilled would be by the abolition of
American local political institutions.

The nationalizing of American political, economic, and social life means
something more than Federal centralization and something very different
therefrom. To nationalize a people has never meant merely to centralize
their government. Little by little a thoroughly national political
organization has come to mean in Europe an organization which combined
effective authority with certain responsibilities to the people; but the
national interest has been just as likely to demand de-centralization as
it has to demand centralization. The Prussia of Frederick the Great, for
instance, was over-centralized; and the restoration of the national
vitality, at which the Prussian government aimed after the disasters of
1806, necessarily took the form of reinvigorating the local members of
the national body. In this and many similar instances the national
interest and welfare was the end, and a greater or smaller amount of
centralized government merely the necessary machinery. The process of
centralization is not, like the process of nationalization, an
essentially formative and enlightening political transformation. When a
people are being nationalized, their political, economic, and social
organization or policy is being cooerdinated with their actual needs and
their moral and political ideals. Governmental centralization is to be
regarded as one of the many means which may or may not be taken in order
to effect this purpose. Like every other special aspect of the national
organization, it must be justified by its fruits. There is no
presumption in its favor. Neither is there any general presumption
against it. Whether a given function should or should not be exercised
by the central government in a Federal system is from the point of view
of political logic a matter of expediency--with the burden of proof
resting on those who propose to alter any existing Constitutional

It may be affirmed, consequently, without paradox, that among those
branches of the American national organization which are greatly in need
of nationalizing is the central government. Almost every member of the
American political body has been at one time or another or in one way or
another perverted to the service of special interests. The state
governments and the municipal administrations have sinned more in this
respect than the central government; but the central government itself
has been a grave sinner. The Federal authorities are responsible for the
prevailing policy in respect to military pensions, which is one of the
most flagrant crimes ever perpetrated against the national interest. The
Federal authorities, again, are responsible for the existing tariff
schedules, which benefit a group of special interests at the expense of
the national welfare. The Federal authorities, finally, are responsible
for the Sherman Anti-Trust Law, whose existence on the statute books is
a fatal bar to the treatment of the problem of corporate aggrandizement
from the standpoint of genuinely national policy. Those instances might
be multiplied, but they suffice to show that the ideal of a constructive
relation between the American national and democratic principles does
not imply that any particular piece of legislation or policy is national
because it is Federal. The Federal no less than the state governments
has been the victim of special interests; and when a group of state or
city officials effectively assert the public interest against the
private interests, either of the machine or of the local corporations,
they are noting just as palpably, if not just as comprehensively, for
the national welfare, as if their work benefited the whole American
people. The process of nationalization in its application to American
political organization means that political power shall be distributed
among the central, state, and municipal officials in such a manner that
it can be efficiently and responsibly exerted in the interest of those
affected by its action.

Be it added, however, in the same breath, that under existing conditions
and simply as a matter of expediency, the national advance of the
American democracy does demand an increasing amount of centralized
action and responsibility. In what respect and for what purposes an
increased Federal power and responsibility is desirable will be
considered in a subsequent chapter. In this connection it is sufficient
to insist that a more scrupulous attention to existing Federal
responsibilities, and the increase of their number and scope, is the
natural consequence of the increasing concentration of American
industrial, political, and social life. American government demands more
rather than less centralization merely and precisely because of the
growing centralization of American activity. The state governments,
either individually or by any practicable methods of cooeperation, are
not competent to deal effectively in the national interest and spirit
with the grave problems created by the aggrandizement of corporate and
individual wealth and the increasing classification of the American
people. They have, no doubt, an essential part to play in the attempted
solution of these problems; and there are certain aspects of the whole
situation which the American nation, because of its Federal
organization, can deal with much more effectually than can a rigidly
centralized democracy like France. But the amount of responsibility in
respect to fundamental national problems, which, in law almost as much
as in practice, is left to the states, exceeds the responsibility which
the state governments are capable of efficiently redeeming. They are
attempting (or neglecting) a task which they cannot be expected to
perform with any efficiency.

The fact that the states fail properly to perform certain essential
functions such as maintaining order or administering justice, is no
sufficient reason for depriving them thereof. Functions which should be
bestowed upon the central government are not those which the states
happen to perform badly. They are those which the states, even with the
best will in the world, cannot be expected to perform satisfactorily;
and among these functions the regulation of commerce, the organization
of labor, and the increasing control over property in the public
interest are assuredly to be included. The best friends of local
government in this country are those who seek to have its activity
confined with the limits of possible efficiency, because only in case
its activity is so confined can the states continue to remain an
essential part of a really efficient and well-cooerdinated national

Proposals to increase the powers of the central government are, however,
rarely treated on their merits. They are opposed by the majority of
American politicians and newspapers as an unqualified evil. Any attempt
to prove that the existing distribution of responsibility is necessarily
fruitful of economic and political abuses, and that an increase of
centralized power offers the only chance of eradicating these abuses is
treated as irrelevant. It is not a question of the expediency of a
specific proposal, because from the traditional point of view any
change in the direction of increased centralization would be a violation
of American democracy. Centralization is merely a necessary evil which
has been carried as far as it should, and which cannot be carried any
further without undermining the foundations of the American system. Thus
the familiar theory of many excellent American democrats is rather that
of a contradictory than a constructive relation between the democratic
and the national ideals. The process of nationalization is perverted by
them into a matter merely of centralization, but the question of the
fundamental relation between nationality and democracy is raised by
their attitude, because the reasons they advance against increasingly
centralized authority would, if they should continue to prevail,
definitely and absolutely forbid a gradually improving cooerdination
between American political organization and American national economic
needs or moral and intellectual ideals. The conception of democracy out
of which the supposed contradiction between the democratic and national
ideals issues is the great enemy of the American national advance, and
is for that reason the great enemy of the real interests of democracy.

To be sure, any increase in centralized power and responsibility,
expedient or inexpedient, is injurious to certain aspects of traditional
American democracy. But the fault in that case lies with the democratic
tradition; and the erroneous and misleading tradition must yield before
the march of a constructive national democracy. The national advance
will always be impeded by these misleading and erroneous ideas, and,
what is more, it always should be impeded by them, because at bottom
ideas of this kind are merely an expression of the fact that the average
American individual is morally and intellectually inadequate to a
serious and consistent conception of his responsibilities as a democrat.
An American national democracy must always prove its right to a further
advance, not only by the development of a policy and method adequate for
the particular occasion, but by its ability to overcome the inevitable
opposition of selfish interests and erroneous ideas. The logic of its
position makes it the aggressor, just as the logic of its opponents'
position ties them to a negative and protesting or merely insubordinate
part. If the latter should prevail, their victory would become
tantamount to national dissolution, either by putrefaction, by
revolution, or by both.

Under the influence of certain practical demands, an increase has
already taken place in the activity of the Federal government. The
increase has not gone as far as governmental efficiency demands, but it
has gone far enough to provoke outbursts of protest and anguish from the
"old-fashioned Democrats." They profess to see the approaching
extinction of the American democracy in what they call the drift towards
centralization. Such calamitous predictions are natural, but they are
none the less absurd. The drift of American politics--its instinctive
and unguided movement--is almost wholly along the habitual road; and any
effective increase of Federal centralization can be imposed only by most
strenuous efforts, by one of the biggest sticks which has ever been
flourished in American politics. The advance made in this direction is
small compared to the actual needs of an efficient national
organization, and considering the mass of interest and prejudice which
it must continue to overcome, it can hardly continue to progress at more
than a snail's pace. The great obstacle to American national fulfillment
must always be the danger that the American people will merely succumb
to the demands of their local and private interests and will permit
their political craft to drift into a compromising situation--from which
the penalties of rescue may be almost as distressing as the penalties of

The tradition of an individualist and provincial democracy, which is the
mainstay of an anti-national policy, does not include ideals which have
to be realized by aggressive action. Their ideals are the ones embodied
in our existing system, and their continued vitality demands merely a
policy of inaction enveloped in a cloud of sacred phrases. The advocates
and the beneficiaries of the prevailing ideas and conditions are little
by little being forced into the inevitable attitude of the traditional
Bourbon--the attitude of maintaining customary or legal rights merely
because they are customary or legal, and predicting the most awful
consequences from any attempt to impair them. Men, or associations of
men, who possess legal or customary rights inimical to the public
welfare, always defend those rights as the essential part of a political
system, which, if it is overthrown, will prove destructive to public
prosperity and security. On no other ground can they find a plausible
public excuse for their opposition. The French royal authority and
aristocratic privileges were defended on these grounds in 1780, and as
the event proved, with some show of reason. In the same way the partial
legislative control of nationalized corporations now exercised by the
state government, is defended, not on the ground that it has been well
exercised, not even plausibly on the ground that it can be well
exercised. It is defended almost exclusively on the ground that any
increase in the authority of the Federal government is dangerous to the
American people. But the Federal government belongs to the American
people even more completely than do the state governments, because a
general current of public opinion can act much more effectively on the
single Federal authority than it can upon the many separate state
authorities. Popular interests have nothing to fear from a measure of
Federal centralization, which bestows on the Federal government powers
necessary to the fulfillment of its legitimate responsibilities; and the
American people cannot in the long run be deceived by pleas which bear
the evidence of such a selfish origin and have such dubious historical
associations. The rights and the powers both of states and individuals
must be competent to serve their purposes efficiently in an economical
and coherent national organization, or else they must be superseded. A
prejudice against centralization is as pernicious, provided
centralization is necessary, as a prejudice in its favor. All rights
under the law are functions in a democratic political organism and must
be justified by their actual or presumable functional adequacy.

The ideal of a constructive relation between American nationality and
American democracy is in truth equivalent to a new Declaration of
Independence. It affirms that the American people are free to organize
their political, economic, and social life in the service of a
comprehensive, a lofty, and far-reaching democratic purpose. At the
present time there is a strong, almost a dominant tendency to regard the
existing Constitution with superstitious awe, and to shrink with horror
from modifying it even in the smallest detail; and it is this
superstitious fear of changing the most trivial parts of the fundamental
legal fabric which brings to pass the great bondage of the American
spirit. If such an abject worship of legal precedent for its own sake
should continue, the American idea will have to be fitted to the rigid
and narrow lines of a few legal formulas; and the ruler of the American
spirit, like the ruler of the Jewish spirit of old, will become the
lawyer. But it will not continue, in case Americans can be brought to
understand and believe that the American national political organization
should be constructively related to their democratic purpose. Such an
ideal reveals at once the real opportunity and the real responsibility
of the American democracy. It declares that the democracy has a
machinery in a nationalized organization, and a practical guide in the
national interest, which are adequate to the realization of the
democratic ideal; and it declares also that in the long run just in so
far as Americans timidly or superstitiously refuse to accept their
national opportunity and responsibility, they will not deserve the names
either of freemen or of loyal democrats. There comes a time in the
history of every nation, when its independence of spirit vanishes,
unless it emancipates itself in some measure from its traditional
illusions; and that time is fast approaching for the American people.
They must either seize the chance of a better future, or else become a
nation which is satisfied in spirit merely to repeat indefinitely the
monotonous measures of its own past.



At the beginning of this discussion popular Sovereignty was declared to
be the essential condition of democracy; and a general account of the
nature of a constructive democratic ideal can best be brought to a close
by a definition of the meaning of the phrase, popular Sovereignty,
consistent with a nationalist interpretation of democracy. The people
are Sovereign; but who and what are the people? and how can a
many-headed Sovereignty be made to work? Are we to answer, like
Bismarck, that the "true people is an invisible multitude of
spirits--the nation of yesterday and of to-morrow"? Such an answer seems
scarcely fair to living people of to-day. On the other hand, can we
reply that the Sovereign people is constituted by any chance majority
which happens to obtain control of the government, and that the
decisions and actions of the majority are inevitably and unexceptionally
democratic? Such an assertion of the doctrine of popular Sovereignty
would bestow absolute Sovereign authority on merely a part of the
people. Majority rule, under certain prescribed conditions, is a
necessary constituent of any practicable democratic organization; but
the actions or decisions of a majority need not have any binding moral
and national authority. Majority rule is merely one means to an
extremely difficult, remote and complicated end; and it is a piece of
machinery which is peculiarly liable to get out of order. Its arbitrary
and dangerous tendencies can, as a matter of fact, be checked in many
effectual and legitimate ways, of which the most effectual is the
cherishing of a tradition, partly expressed in some body of fundamental
law, that the true people are, as Bismarck declared, in some measure an
invisible multitude of spirits--the nation of yesterday and to-morrow,
organized for its national historical mission.

The phrase popular Sovereignty is, consequently, for us Americans
equivalent to the phrase "national Sovereignty." The people are not
Sovereign as individuals. They are not Sovereign in reason and morals
even when united into a majority. They become Sovereign only in so far
as they succeed in reaching and expressing a collective purpose. But
there is no royal and unimpeachable road to the attainment of such a
collective will; and the best means a democratic people can take in
order to assert its Sovereign authority with full moral effect is to
seek fullness and consistency of national life. They are Sovereign in so
far as they are united in spirit and in purpose; and they are united in
so far as they are loyal one to another, to their joint past, and to the
Promise of their future. The Promise of their future may sometimes
demand the partial renunciation of their past and the partial sacrifice
of certain present interests; but the inevitable friction of all such
sacrifices can be mitigated by mutual loyalty and good faith. Sacrifices
of tradition and interest can only be demanded in case they contribute
to the national purpose--to the gradual creation of a higher type of
individual and associated life. Hence it is that an effective increase
in national coherence looks in the direction of the democratic
consummation--of the morally and intellectually authoritative expression
of the Sovereign popular will. Both the forging and the functioning of
such a will are constructively related to the gradual achievement of the
work of individual and social amelioration.

Undesirable and inadequate forms of democracy always seek to dispense in
one way or another with this tedious process of achieving a morally
authoritative Sovereign will. We Americans have identified democracy
with certain existing political and civil rights, and we have,
consequently, tended to believe that the democratic consummation was
merely a matter of exercising and preserving those rights. The grossest
form of this error was perpetrated when Stephen A. Douglas confused
authoritative popular Sovereignty with the majority vote of a few
hundred "squatters" in a frontier state, and asserted that on democratic
principles such expressions of the popular will should be accepted as
final. But an analogous mistake lurks in all static forms of democracy.
The bestowal and the exercise of political and civil rights are merely a
method of organization, which if used in proper subordination to the
ultimate democratic purpose, may achieve in action something of the
authority of a popular Sovereign will. But to cleave to the details of
such an organization as the very essence of democracy is utterly to
pervert the principle of national democratic Sovereignty. From this
point of view, the Bourbon who wishes the existing system with its
mal-adaptations and contradictions preserved in all its lack of
integrity, commits an error analogous to that of the radical, who wishes
by virtue of a majority vote immediately to destroy some essential part
of the fabric. Both of them conceive that the whole moral and national
authority of the democratic principle can be invoked in favor of
institutions already in existence or of purposes capable of immediate

On the other hand, there are democrats who would seek a consummate
democracy without the use of any political machinery. The idea that a
higher type of associated life can be immediately realized by a supreme
act of faith must always be tempting to men who unite social aspirations
with deep religious faith. It is a more worthy and profound conception
of democracy than the conventional American one of a system of legally
constituted and equally exercised rights, fatally resulting in material
prosperity. Before any great stride can be made towards a condition of
better democracy, the constructive democratic movement must obtain more
effective support both from scientific discipline and religious faith.
Nevertheless, the triumph of Tolstoyan democracy at the present moment
would be more pernicious in its results than the triumph of Jeffersonian
Democracy. Tolstoy has merely given a fresh and exalted version of the
old doctrine of non-resistance, which, as it was proclaimed by Jesus,
referred in the most literal way to another world. In this world faith
cannot dispense with power and organization. The sudden and immediate
conversion of unregenerate men from a condition of violence,
selfishness, and sin into a condition of beatitude and brotherly love
can obtain even comparative permanence only by virtue of exclusiveness.
The religious experience of our race has sufficiently testified to the
permanence of the law. One man can be evangelized for a lifetime. A
group of men can be evangelized for many years. Multitudes of men can be
evangelized only for a few hours. No faith can achieve comparatively
stable social conquests without being established by habit, defined by
thought, and consolidated by organization. Usually the faith itself
subsequently sickens of the bad air it breathes in its own house.
Indeed, it is certain to lose initiative and vigor, unless it can appeal
intermittently to some correlative source of enthusiasm and devotion.
But with the help of efficient organization it may possibly survive,
whereas in the absence of such a worldly body, it must in a worldly
sense inevitably perish. Democracy as a living movement in the direction
of human brotherhood has required, like other faiths, an efficient
organization and a root in ordinary human nature; and it obtains such an
organization by virtue of the process of national development--on
condition, of course, that the nation is free to become a genuine and
thorough-going democracy.

A democracy organized into a nation, and imbued with the national
spirit, will seek by means of experimentation and discipline to reach
the object which Tolstoy would reach by an immediate and a miraculous
act of faith. The exigencies of such schooling frequently demand severe
coercive measures, but what schooling does not? A nation cannot merely
discharge its unregenerate citizens; and the best men in a nation or in
any political society cannot evade the responsibility which the fact of
human unregeneracy places upon the whole group. After men had reached a
certain stage of civilization, they frequently began to fear that the
rough conditions of political association excluded the highest and most
fruitful forms of social life; and they sought various ways of improving
the quality of the association by narrowing its basis. They tried to
found small communities of saints who were connected exclusively by
moral and religious bonds, and who in this way freed themselves from the
hazards, the distraction, and the violence inseparable from political
association. Such communities have made at different times great
successes; but their success has not been permanent. The political
aspect of associated life is not to be evaded. In proportion as
political organization gained in prosperity, efficiency, and dignity,
special religious associations lost their independence and power. Even
the most powerful religious association in the world, the Catholic
Church, has been fighting a losing battle with political authority, and
it is likely in the course of time to occupy in relation to the
political powers a position analogous to that of the Greek or the
English church. The ultimate power to command must rest with that
authority which, if necessary, can force people to obey; and any plan of
association which seeks to ignore the part which physical force plays in
life is necessarily incomplete. Just as formerly the irresponsible and
meaningless use of political power created the need of special religious
associations, independent of the state, so now the responsible, the
purposeful, and the efficient use of physical force, characteristic of
modern nations, has in its turn made such independence less necessary,
and tends to attach a different function to the church. A basis of
association narrower than the whole complex of human powers and
interests will not serve. National organization provides such a basis.
The perversity of human nature may cause its ultimate failure; but it
will not fail because it omits any essential constituent in the
composition of a permanent and fruitful human association. So far as it
fulfills its responsibilities, it guarantees protection against
predatory powers at home and abroad. It provides in appropriate measure
for individual freedom, for physical, moral, and intellectual
discipline, and for social consistency. It has prizes to offer as well
as coercion to exercise; and with its foundations planted firmly in the
past, its windows and portals look out towards a better future. The
tendency of its normal action is continually, if very slowly, to
diminish the distance between the ideal of human brotherhood, and the
political, economic, and social conditions, under which at any one time
men manage to live together.

That is the truth to which the patriotic Americans should firmly cleave.
The modern nation, particularly in so far as it is constructively
democratic, constitutes the best machinery as yet developed for raising
the level of human association. It really teaches men how they must
feel, what they must think, and what they must do, in order that they
may live together amicably and profitably. The value of this school for
its present purposes is increased by its very imperfections, because its
imperfections issue inevitably from the imperfections of human nature.
Men being as unregenerate as they are, all worthy human endeavor
involves consequences of battle and risk. The heroes of the struggle
must maintain their achievements and at times even promote their objects
by compulsion. The policeman and the soldier will continue for an
indefinite period to be guardians of the national schools, and the
nations have no reason to be ashamed of this fact. It is merely symbolic
of the very comprehensiveness of their responsibilities--that they have
to deal with the problem of human inadequacy and unregeneracy in all its
forms,--that they cannot evade this problem by allowing only the good
boys to attend school--that they cannot even mitigate it by drawing too
sharp a distinction between the good boys and the bad. Such
indiscriminate attendance in these national schools, if it is to be
edifying, involves one practical consequence of dominant importance.
Everybody within the school-house--masters, teachers, pupils and
janitors, old pupils and young, good pupils and bad, must feel one to
another an indestructible loyalty. Such loyalty is merely the subjective
aspect of their inevitable mutual association; it is merely the
recognition that as a worldly body they must all live or die and conquer
or fail together. The existence of an invincible loyalty is a condition
of the perpetuity of the school. The man who believes himself wise is
always tempted to ignore or undervalue the foolish brethren. The man who
believes himself good is always tempted actively to dislike the perverse
brethren. The man who insists at any cost upon having his own way is
always twisting the brethren into his friends or his enemies. But the
teaching of the national school constantly tends to diminish these
causes of disloyalty. Its tendency is to convert traditional patriotism
into a patient devotion to the national ideal, and into a patient
loyalty towards one's fellow-countrymen as the visible and inevitable
substance through which that ideal is to be expressed.

In the foregoing characteristic of a democratic nation, we reach the
decisive difference between a nation which is seeking to be wholly
democratic and a nation which is content to be semi-democratic. In the
semi-democratic nation devotion to the national ideal does not to the
same extent sanctify the citizen's relation in feeling and in idea to
his fellow-countrymen. The loyalty demanded by the national ideal of
such a country may imply a partly disloyal and suspicious attitude
towards large numbers of political associates. The popular and the
national interests must necessarily in some measure diverge. In a
nationalized democracy or a democratic nation the corresponding dilemma
is mitigated. The popular interest can only be efficiently expressed in
a national policy and organization. The national interest is merely a
more coherent and ameliorating expression of the popular interest. Its
consistency, so far as it is consistent, is the reflection of a more
humanized condition of human nature. It increases with the increasing
power of its citizens to deal fairly and to feel loyally towards their
fellow-countrymen; and it cannot increase except through the overthrow
of the obstacles to fair dealing and loyal feeling.

The responsibility and loyalty which the citizens of a democratic nation
must feel one towards another is comprehensive and unmitigable; but the
actual behavior which at any one time the national welfare demands must,
of course, be specially and carefully discriminated. National policies
and acts will be welcome to some citizens and obnoxious to others,
according to their special interests and opinions; and the citizens
whose interests and ideas are prejudiced thereby have every right and
should be permitted every opportunity to protest in the most vigorous
and persistent manner. The nation may, however, on its part demand that
these protests, in order to be heeded and respected, must conform to
certain conditions. They must not be carried to the point of refusing
obedience to the law. When private interests are injured by the national
policy, the protestants must be able to show either that such injuries
are unnecessary, or else they involve harm to an essential public
interest. All such protest must find an ultimate sanction in a group of
constructive democratic ideas. Finally, the protest must never be made
the excuse for personal injustice or national disloyalty. Even if the
national policy should betray indifference to the fundamental interests
of a democratic nation, as did that of the United States from 1820 to
1860, the obligation of patient good faith on the part of the
protestants is not diminished. Their protests may be as vivacious and as
persistent as the error demands. The supporters of the erroneous policy
may be made the object of most drastic criticism and the uncompromising
exposure. No effort should be spared to secure the adoption of a more
genuinely national policy. But beyond all this there remains a still
deeper responsibility--that of dealing towards one's fellow-countrymen
in good faith, so that differences of interest, of conviction, and of
moral purpose can be made the agency of a better understanding and a
firmer loyalty.

If a national policy offends the integrity of the national idea, as for
a while that of the American nation did, its mistake is sure to involve
certain disastrous consequences; and those consequences constitute,
usually, the vehicle of necessary national discipline. The national
school is, of course, the national life. So far as the school is
properly conducted, the methods of instruction are, if you please,
pedagogic; but if the masters are blind or negligent, or if the scholars
are unruly, there remains as a resource the more painful and costly
methods of nature's instruction. A serious error will be followed by its
inevitable penalty, proportioned to the blindness and the perversity in
which it originated; and thereafter the prosperity of the country's
future will hang partly on the ability of the national intelligence to
trace the penalty to its cause and to fix the responsibility. No matter
how loyal the different members of a national body may be one to
another, their mutual good faith will bleed to death, unless some among
them have the intelligence to trace their national ills to their
appropriate causes, and the candid courage to advocate the necessary
remedial measures. At some point in the process, disinterested
patriotism and good faith must be reenforced by intellectual insight. A
people are saved many costly perversions, in case the official
school-masters are wise, and the pupils neither truant nor
insubordinate; but if the lessons are foolishly phrased, or the pupils
refuse to learn, the school will never regain its proper disciplinary
value until new teachers have arisen, who understand both the error and
its consequences, and who can exercise an effective authority over their

The mutual loyalty and responsibility, consequently, embodied and
inculcated in a national school, depends for its efficient expression
upon the amount of insight and intelligence which it involves. The
process of national education means, not only a discipline of the
popular will, but training in ability to draw inferences from the
national experience, so that the national consciousness will gradually
acquire an edifying state of mind towards its present and its future
problems. Those problems are always closely allied to the problems which
have been more or less completely solved during the national history;
and the body of practical lessons which can be inferred from that
history is the best possible preparation for present and future
emergencies. Such history requires close and exact reading. The national
experience is always strangely mixed. Even the successes of our own
past, such as the Federal organization, contain much dubious matter,
demanding the most scrupulous disentanglement. Even the worst enemies of
our national integrity, such as the Southern planters, offer in some
respects an edifying political example to a disinterested democracy.
Nations do not have to make serious mistakes in order to learn valuable
lessons. Every national action, no matter how trivial, which is
scrutinized with candor, may contribute to the stock of national
intellectual discipline--the result of which should be to form a
constantly more coherent whole out of the several elements in the
national composition--out of the social and economic conditions, the
stock of national opinions, and the essential national ideal. And it is
this essential national ideal which makes it undesirable for the
national consciousness to dwell too much on the past or to depend too
much upon the lessons of experience alone. The great experience given to
a democratic nation must be just an incorrigible but patient attempt to
realize its democratic ideal--an attempt which must mold history as well
as hang upon its lessons. The function of the patriotic political
intelligence in relation to the fulfillment of the national Promise must
be to devise means for its redemption--means which have their relations
to the past, their suitability to the occasion, and their contribution
towards a step in advance. The work in both critical, experienced, and
purposeful. Mistakes will be made, and their effects either corrected or
turned to good account. Successes will be achieved, and their effects
must be coolly appraised and carefully discriminated. The task will
never be entirely achieved, but the tedious and laborious advance will
for every generation be a triumphant affirmation of the nationalized
democratic ideal as the one really adequate political and social




The logic of a national democratic ideal and the responsibilities of a
national career in the world involve a number of very definite
consequences in respect to American foreign policy. They involve, in
fact, a conception of the place of a democratic nation in relation to
the other civilized nations, different from that which has hitherto
prevailed in this country. Because of their geographical situation and
their democratic institutions, Americans have claimed and still claim a
large degree of national aloofness and independence; but such a claim
could have been better defended several generations ago than it can
to-day. Unquestionably the geographical situation of the United States
must always have a decisive effect upon the nature of its policy in
foreign affairs; and undoubtedly no course of action in respect to other
nations can be national without serving the interests of democracy. But
precisely because an American foreign policy must be candidly and
vigorously national, it will gradually bring with it an increasingly
complicated group of international ties and duties. The American nation,
just in so far as it believes in its nationality and is ready to become
more of a nation, must assume a more definite and a more responsible
place in the international system. It will have an increasingly
important and an increasingly specific part to play in the political
affairs of the world; and, in spite of "old-fashioned democratic"
scruples and prejudices, the will to play that part for all it is worth
will constitute a beneficial and a necessary stimulus to the better
realization of the Promise of our domestic life.

A genuinely national policy must, of course, be based upon a correct
understanding of the national interest in relation to those of its
neighbors and associates. That American policy did obtain such a
foundation during the early years of American history is to be traced to
the sound political judgment of Washington and Hamilton. Jefferson and
the Republicans did their best for a while to persuade the American
democracy to follow the dangerous course of the French democracy, and to
base its international policy not upon the firm ground of national
interest, but on the treacherous sands of international democratic
propagandism. After a period of hesitation, the American people, with
their usual good sense in the face of a practical emergency, rallied to
the principles subsequently contained in Washington's Farewell Address;
and the Jeffersonian Republicans, when they came into control of the
Federal government, took over this conception of American national
policy together with the rest of the Federalist outfit. But like the
rest of the Federalist organization and ideas, the national foreign
policy was emasculated by the expression it received at the hands of the
Republicans. The conduct of American foreign affairs during the first
fifteen years of the century are an illustration of the ills which may
befall a democracy during a critical international period, when its
foreign policy is managed by a party of anti-national patriots.

After 1815 the foreign policy of the United States was determined by a
strict adherence to the principles enunciated in Washington's Farewell
Address. The adherence was more in the letter than in the spirit, and
the ordinary popular interpretation, which prevails until the present
day, cannot be granted undivided approval; but so far as its immediate
problems were concerned, American foreign policy did not, on the whole,
go astray. The United States kept resolutely clear of European
entanglements, and did not participate in international councils, except
when the rights of neutrals were under discussion; and this persistent
neutrality was precisely the course which was needed in order to confirm
the international position of the country as well as to leave the road
clear for its own national development. But certain consequences were at
an early date deduced from a neutral policy which require more careful
examination. During the presidency of Monroe the systematic isolation of
the United States in respect to Europe was developed, so far as the two
Americas were concerned, into a more positive doctrine. It was
proclaimed that abstention on the part of the United States from
European affairs should be accompanied by a corresponding abstention by
the European Powers from aggressive action in the two Americas. What our
government proposed to do was to divide sharply the democratic political
system of the Americas from the monarchical and aristocratic political
system of Europe. The European system, based as it was upon royalist
legitimacy and privileges, and denying as it did popular political
rights, was declared to be inimical in spirit and in effect to the
American democratic state.

The Monroe Doctrine has been accepted in this form ever since as an
indisputable corollary of the Farewell Address. The American people and
politicians cherish it as a priceless political heirloom. It is
considered to be the equivalent of the Declaration of Independence in
the field of foreign affairs; and it arouses an analogous volume and
fury of conviction. Neither is this conviction merely the property of
Fourth-of-July Americans. Our gravest publicists usually contribute to
the Doctrine a no less emphatic adherence; and not very many years ago
one of the most enlightened of American statesmen asserted that American
foreign policy as a whole could be sufficiently summed up in the phrase,
"The Monroe Doctrine and the Golden Rule." Does the Monroe Doctrine, as
stated above, deserve such uncompromising adherence? Is it an adequate
expression of the national interest of the American democracy in the
field of foreign affairs?

At the time the Monroe Doctrine was originally proclaimed, it did
unquestionably express a valid national interest of the American
democracy. It was the American retort to the policy of the Holy Alliance
which sought to erect the counter-revolutionary principles into an
international system, and which suppressed, so far as possible, all
nationalist or democratic agitation. The Spanish-American colonies had
been winning their independence from Spain; and there was a fear, not
entirely ill-founded, that the Alliance would apply its anti-democratic
international policy to the case of Spain's revolted colonies. Obviously
the United States, both as a democracy and as a democracy which had won
its independence by means of a revolutionary war, could not admit the
right of any combination of European states to suppress national and
democratic uprisings on the American continents. Our government would
have been wholly justified in resisting such interference with all its
available military force. But in what sense and upon what grounds was
the United States justified in going farther than this, and in asserting
that under no circumstances should there be any increase of European
political influence upon the American continents? What is the propriety
and justice of such a declaration of continental isolation? What are its
implications? And what, if any, are its dangers?

In seeking an answer to these questions we must return to the source of
American foreign policy in the Farewell Address. That address contains
the germ of a prudent and wise American national policy; but Hamilton,
in preparing its phrasing, was guided chiefly by a consideration of the
immediate needs and dangers of his country. The Jeffersonian Republicans
in their enthusiasm for the French Revolution proposed for a while to
bring about a permanent alliance between France and the United States,
the object whereof should be the propagation of the democratic political
faith. Both Washington and Hamilton saw clearly that such behavior would
entangle the United States in all the vicissitudes and turmoil which
might attend the development of European democracy; and their favorite
policy of neutrality and isolation implied both that the national
interest of the United States was not concerned in merely European
complications, and that the American people, unlike those of France, did
not propose to make their political principles an excuse for
international aggression. The Monroe Doctrine, as proclaimed in 1825,
rounded out this negative policy with a more positive assertion of
principles. It declared that the neutrality of the American democracy,
so far as Europe was concerned, must be balanced by the non-intervention
of European legitimacy and aristocracy in the affairs of the American
continents. Now this extension of American foreign policy was, as we
have seen, justified, in so far as it was a protest against any possible
interference on the part of the Holy Alliance in American politics. It
was, moreover, justified in so far as it sought to identify the
attainment of a desirable democratic purpose with American international
policy. Of course Hamilton, when he tried to found the international
policy of his country upon the national interest, wholly failed to
identify that interest with any positive democratic purpose; but in
this, as in other respects, Hamilton was not a thorough-going democrat.
While he was right in seeking to prevent the American people from
allying themselves with the aggressive French democracy, he was wrong in
failing to foresee that the national interest of the United States was
identified with the general security and prosperity of liberal political
institutions--that the United States must by every practical means
encourage the spread of democratic methods and ideas. As much in foreign
as in domestic affairs must the American people seek to unite national
efficiency with democratic idealism. The Monroe Doctrine, consequently,
is not to be condemned, as it has been condemned, merely because it went
far beyond the limited foreign policy of Hamilton. The real question in
regard to the Doctrine is whether it seeks in a practicable way--in a
way consistent with the national interest and inevitable international
responsibilities--the realization of the democratic idea. Do the rigid
advocates of that Doctrine fall into an error analogous to the error
against which Washington and Hamilton were protesting? Do they not tend,
indirectly, and within a limited compass, to convert the American
democratic idea into a dangerously aggressive principle?

The foregoing question must, I believe, be answered partly in the
affirmative. The Monroe Doctrine, as usually stated, does give a
dangerously militant tendency to the foreign policy of the United
States; and unless its expression is modified, it may prevent the United
States from occupying a position towards the nations of Europe and
America in conformity with its national interest and its national
principle. It should be added, however, that this unwholesomely
aggressive quality is only a tendency, which will not become active
except under certain possible conditions, and which can gradually be
rendered less dangerous by the systematic development of the Doctrine as
a positive principle of political action in the Western hemisphere.

The Monroe Doctrine has, of course, no status in the accepted system of
International Law. Its international standing is due almost entirely to
its express proclamation as an essential part of the foreign policy of
the United States, and it depends for its weight upon the ability of
this country to compel its recognition by the use of latent or actual
military force. Great Britain has, perhaps, tacitly accepted it, but no
other European country has done so, and a number of them have expressly
stated that it entails consequences against which they might sometime be
obliged strenuously and forcibly to protest. No forcible protest has as
yet been made, because no European country has had anything to gain from
such a protest, comparable to the inevitable cost of a war with the
United States.

The dangerously aggressive tendency of the Monroe Doctrine is not due to
the fact that it derives its standing from the effective military power
of the United States. The recognition which any proclamation of a
specific principle of foreign policy receives will depend, in case it
conflicts with the actual or possible interests of other nations, upon
the military and naval power with which it can be maintained. The
question as to whether a particular doctrine is unwholesomely aggressive
depends, consequently, not upon the mere fact that it may provoke a war,
but upon the doubt that, if it provokes a war, such a war can be
righteously fought. Does the Doctrine as usually stated, possibly or
probably commit the United States to an unrighteous war--a war in which
the United States would be opposing a legitimate interest on the part of
one or a group of European nations? Does an American foreign policy of
the "Monroe Doctrine and the Golden Rule" proclaim two parallel springs
of national action in foreign affairs which may prove to be

There is a danger that such may be the case. The Monroe Doctrine in its
most popular form proclaims a rigid policy of continental isolation--of
America for the Americans and of Europe for the Europeans. European
nations may retain existing possessions in the Americas, but such
possessions must not be increased. So far, so good. A European nation,
which sought defiantly to increase its American possessions, in spite of
the express declaration of the United States that such action would mean
war, would deserve the war thereby incurred. But there are many ways of
increasing the political influence of European Powers in the Americas
without actual territorial appropriation. The emigration from several
European states and from Japan to South America is already
considerable, and is likely to increase rather than diminish. European
commercial interests in South America are greater than ours, and in the
future will become greater still. The South Americans have already
borrowed large quantities of European capital, and will need more. The
industrial and agricultural development of the South American states is
constantly tying them more closely to Europe than it is to the United
States. It looks, consequently, as if irresistible economic conditions
were making in favor of an increase of effective European influence in
South America. The growth of that influence is part of the
world-movement in the direction of the better utilization of the
economic resources of mankind. South America cannot develop without the
benefits of European capital, additional European labor, European
products, and European experience and training; and in the course of
another few generations the result will be a European investment in
South America, which may in a number of different ways involve political
complications. We have already had a foretaste of those consequences in
the steps which the European Powers took a few years ago to collect
debts due to Europeans by Venezuela.

The increasing industrial, social, and financial bonds might not have
any serious political consequences, provided the several South American
states were possessed of stable governments, orderly political
traditions, and a political standing under definite treaties similar to
that of the smaller European states. But such is not the case. The alien
investment in South America may involve all sorts of political
complications which would give European or Asiatic Powers a justifiable
right under the law of nations to interfere. Up to the present time, as
we have seen, such interference has promised to be too costly; but the
time may well come when the advantages of interference will more than
counterbalance the dangers of a forcible protest. Moreover, in case such
a protest were made, it might not come from any single European Power. A
general European interest would be involved. The United States might
well find her policy of America for the Americans result in an attempt
on the part of a European coalition to bring about a really effectual
isolation. We might find ourselves involved in a war against a
substantially united Europe. Such a danger seems sufficiently remote at
present; but in the long run a policy which carries isolation too far is
bound to provoke justifiable attempts to break it down. If Europe and
the Americas are as much divided in political interest as the Monroe
Doctrine seems to assert, the time will inevitably arrive when the two
divergent political systems must meet and fight; and plenty of occasions
for such a conflict will arise, as soon as the policy of isolation
begins to conflict with the establishment of that political relation
between Europe and South America demanded by fundamental economic and
social interests. Thus under certain remote but entirely possible
conditions, the Doctrine as now proclaimed and practiced might justify
Europe in seeking to break it down by reasons at least as valid as those
of our own country in proclaiming it.

But if the Monroe Doctrine could only be maintained by a war of this
kind, or a succession of wars, it would defeat the very purpose which it
is supposed to accomplish. It would embroil the United States and the
two American continents in continual trouble with Europe; and it would
either have to be abandoned or else would carry with it incessant and
enormous expenditures for military and naval purposes. The United States
would have to become a predominantly military power, armed to the teeth,
to resist or forestall European attack; and our country would have to
accept these consequences, for the express purpose of keeping the
Americas unsullied by the complications of European politics. Obviously
there is a contradiction in such a situation. The United States could
fight with some show of reason a single European Power, like France in
1865, which undertook a policy of American territorial aggrandizement;
but if it were obliged to fight a considerable portion of Europe for the
same purpose, it would mean that our country was opposing a general, and
presumably a legitimate, European interest. In that event America would
become a part of the European political system with a vengeance--a part
which in its endeavor to escape from the vicissitudes of European
politics had brought upon itself a condition of permanent military
preparation and excitement. Consequently, in case the "Monroe Doctrine
and the Golden Rule" are to remain the foundation of American foreign
policy, mere prudence demands a systematic attempt to prevent the
Doctrine from arousing just and effective European opposition.

No one can believe more firmly than myself that the foreign policy of a
democratic nation should seek by all practicable and inoffensive means
the affirmation of democracy; but the challenge which the Monroe
Doctrine in its popular form issues to Europe is neither an inoffensive
nor a practicable means of affirmation. It is based usually upon the
notion of an essential incompatibility between American and European
political institutions; and the assertion of such an incompatibility at
the present time can only be the result of a stupid or willful American
democratic Bourbonism. Such an incompatibility did exist when the Holy
Alliance dominated Europe. It does not exist to-day, except in one
particular. The exception is important, as we shall see presently; but
it does not concern the domestic institutions of the European and the
American states. The emancipated and nationalized European states of
to-day, so far from being essentially antagonistic to the American
democratic nation, are constantly tending towards a condition which
invites closer and more fruitful association with the United States; and
any national doctrine which proclaims a rooted antagonism lies almost at
right angles athwart the road of American democratic national
achievement. Throughout the whole of the nineteenth century the European
nations have been working towards democracy by means of a completer
national organization; while this country has been working towards
national cohesion by the mere logic and force of its democratic ideal.
Thus the distance between America and Europe is being diminished; and
Americans in their individual behavior bear the most abundant and
generous testimony to the benefits which American democracy can derive
from association with the European nations. It is only in relation to
the Monroe Doctrine that we still make much of the essential
incompatibility between European and American institutions, and by so
doing we distort and misinterpret the valid meaning of a national
democratic foreign policy. The existing domestic institutions of the
European nations are for the most part irrelevant to such a policy.

The one way in which the foreign policy of the United States can make
for democracy is by strengthening and encouraging those political
forces which make for international peace. The one respect in which the
political system, represented by the United States, is still
antagonistic to the European political system is that the European
nation, whatever its ultimate tendency, is actually organized for
aggressive war, that the cherished purposes of some of its states cannot
be realized without war, and that the forces which hope to benefit by
war are stronger than the forces which hope to benefit by peace. That is
the indubitable reason why the United States must remain aloof from the
European system and must avoid scrupulously any entanglements in the
complicated web of European international affairs. The policy of
isolation is in this respect as wise to-day as it was in the time of its
enunciation by Washington and Hamilton; and nobody seriously proposes to
depart from it. On the other hand, the basis for this policy is wholly
independent of the domestic institutions of the European nations. It
derives from the fact that at any time those nations may go to war about
questions in which the United States has no vital interest. The
geographical situation of the United States emancipates her from these
conflicts, and enables her to stand for the ultimate democratic interest
in international peace.

This justifiable policy of isolation has, moreover, certain important
consequences in respect to the foreign policy of the United States in
the two Americas. In this field, also, the United States must stand in
every practicable way for a peaceful international system, and whatever
validity the Monroe Doctrine may have in its relation to the European
nations is the outcome of that obligation. If South and Central America
were thrown open to European colonial ambitions, they would be involved
very much more than they are at present in the consequences of European
wars. In this sense the increase of European political influence in the
two Americas would be an undesirable thing which the United States would
have good reason to oppose. In this sense the extension of the European
system to the American hemisphere would involve consequences inimical to
democracy. In 1801 the North was fighting, not merely to preserve
American national integrity, but to prevent the formation of a state on
its southern frontier which could persist only by virtue of a European
alliance, and which would consequently have entangled the free republic
of the Northern states in the network of irrelevant European
complications. Such would be the result of any attempt on the part of
the European states to seek alliances or to pursue an aggressive policy
on this side of the Atlantic.

But it may be asked, how can European aggressions in America be opposed,
even on the foregoing ground, without requiring enormous and increasing
military preparations? Would not the Monroe Doctrine, even in that
modified form, involve the same practical inconsistency which has
already been attached to its popular expression? The answer is simple.
It will involve a similar inconsistency unless effective means are taken
to avoid the inevitable dangers of such a challenge to Europe--unless,
that is, means are taken to prevent Europe from having any just cause
for intervention in South America for the purpose of protecting its own
investment of men and money. The probable necessity of such intervention
is due to the treacherous and unstable political conditions prevailing
on that continent; and the Monroe Doctrine, consequently, commits the
United States at least to the attempt to constitute in the two Americas
a stable and peaceful international system. During the next two or three
generations the European states will be too much preoccupied elsewhere
to undertake or even to threaten any serious or concerted interference
in South America. During that interval, while the Monroe Doctrine
remains in its present situation of being unrecognized but unchallenged,
American statesmen will have their opportunity. If the American system
can be made to stand for peace, just as the European system stands at
present for war, then the United States will have an unimpeachable
reason in forbidding European intervention. European states would no
longer have a legitimate ground for interference; it would be impossible
for them to take any concerted action. The American nation would testify
to its sincere democracy both by its negative attitude towards a
militant European system and by its positive promotion of a peaceful
international system in the two Americas.

On the other hand, if a stable international system either is not or
cannot be constituted in the two Americas, the Monroe Doctrine will
probably involve this country in wars which would be not merely
exhausting and demoralizing, but fruitless. We should be fighting to
maintain a political system which would be in no essential respect
superior to the European political system. The South and Central
American states have been almost as ready to fight among themselves, and
to cherish political plans which can be realized only by war, as the
European states. In the course of time, as they grow in population and
wealth, they also will entertain more or less desirable projects of
expansion; and the resulting conflicts would, the United States
permitting, be sure to involve European alliances and complications. Why
should the United States prepare for war in order to preserve the
integrity of states which, if left to themselves, might well have an
interest in compromising their own independence, and which, unless
subjected to an edifying pressure, would probably make comparatively
poor use of the independence they enjoyed? Surely the only valid reason
for fighting in order to prevent the growth of European political
influence in the two Americas is the creation of a political system on
behalf of which it is worth while to fight.



Possibly some of my readers will have inferred by this time that the
establishment of a peaceable international system in the two Americas is
only a sanctimonious paraphrase for a policy on the part of this country
of political aggrandizement in the Western hemisphere. Such an inference
would be wholly unjust. Before such a system can be established, the use
of compulsion may on some occasions be necessary; but the United States
acting individually, could rarely afford to employ forcible means. An
essential condition of the realization of the proposed system would be
the ability of American statesmen to convince the Latin-Americans of the
disinterestedness of their country's intentions; and to this end the
active cooeperation of one or more Latin-American countries in the
realization of the plan would be indispensable. The statesmen of this
country can work without cooeperation as long as they are merely seeking
to arouse public sentiment in favor of such a plan, or as long as they
are clearing away preliminary obstacles; but no decisive step can be
taken without assurance of support on the part of a certain proportion
of the Latin-American states, and the best way gradually to obtain such
support has already been indicated by Mr. Elihu Root during his official
term as Secretary of State. He has begun the work of coming to an
understanding with the best element in South American opinion by his
candid and vigorous expression of the fundamental interest of the United
States in its relations with its American neighbors.

Fifteen years ago the attempt to secure effective support from any of
the Latin-American states in the foundation of a stable American
international system would have looked hopeless. Countries with so
appalling a record of domestic violence and instability could apparently
be converted to a permanently peaceable behavior in respect to their
neighbors only by the use of force. But recently several niches have
been built into the American political structure on which a foothold may
eventually be obtained. In general the political condition of the more
powerful Latin-American states, such as Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and
Chile, has become more stable and more wholesome. If their condition of
stability and health persists, their industrial and commercial
prosperity will also continue; and little by little their political
purposes will become more explicit and more significant. As soon as this
stage is reached, it should be possible for American statesmen to
estimate accurately the weight of the probable obstacles which any
movement towards an international agreement would encounter. A series of
particular steps could then be taken, tending to remove such obstacles,
and, if wise, the whole question of an international agreement could be
raised in some definite way.

Such obstacles may prove to be insurmountable; but provided the
Latin-Americans can be convinced of the disinterestedness of this
country, they do not look insurmountable. Acquiescence in a permanent
American international system would, of course, imply a certain
sacrifice of independence on the part of the several contracting states;
but in return for this sacrifice their situation in respect to their
neighbors would receive a desirable certification. They would renounce
the right of going to war in return for a guarantee of their
independence in other respects, and for the consequent chance of an
indefinite period of orderly economic and social development. Whether
they can ever be brought to such a renunciation will depend, of course,
on the conception of their national interest which the more important
Latin-American states will reach. As long as any one of them cherishes
objects which can only be realized by war, the international situation
in the Western hemisphere will remain similar to that of Europe. An
actual or latent aggressiveness on the part of any one nation inevitably
provokes its neighbors into a defiant and suspicious temper. It is too
soon to predict whether the economic and political development of the
Latin-Americans during the next generation will make for a warlike or a
peaceful international organization; but considering the political
geography of South America and the manifest economic interests of the
several states, it does not look as if any one of them had as much to
gain from a militant organization as it had from a condition of
comparative international security.

The domestic condition of some of the Latin-American states presents a
serious obstacle to the creation of a stable American international
system. Such a system presupposes a condition of domestic peace. The
several contracting states must possess permanent and genuinely national
political organizations; and no such organization is possible as long as
the tradition and habit of revolution persists. As we have seen, the
political habits of the more important states have in this respect
enormously improved of late years, but there remain a number of minor
countries wherein the right of revolution is cherished as the essential
principle of their democracy. Just what can be done with such states is
a knotty problem. In all probability no American international system
will ever be established without the forcible pacification of one or
more such centers of disorder. Coercion should, of course, be used only
in the case of extreme necessity; and it would not be just to deprive
the people of such states of the right of revolution, unless effective
measures were at the same time taken to do away with the more or less
legitimate excuses for revolutionary protest. In short, any
international American political system might have to undertake a task
in states like Venezuela, similar to that which the United States is now
performing in Cuba. That any attempt to secure domestic stability would
be disinterested, if not successful, would be guaranteed by the
participation or the express acquiescence therein of the several
contracting states.

The United States has already made an effective beginning in this great
work, both by the pacification of Cuba and by the attempt to introduce a
little order into the affairs of the turbulent Central American
republics. The construction of the Panama Canal has given this country
an exceptional interest in the prevalence of order and good government
in the territory between Panama and Mexico; and in the near future our
best opportunity for improving international political conditions in the
Western hemisphere will be found in this comparatively limited but, from
a selfish point of view, peculiarly important field. Within this
restricted area the same obstacles will be encountered as in the larger
area, and success will depend upon the use of similar means and the
exhibition of similar qualities. Very little can be achieved in Central
America without the cooeperation of Mexico, and without the ability to
convince Mexican statesmen of the disinterested intentions of this
country. In the same way any recrudescence of revolutionary upheavals in
Mexico would enormously increase the difficulties and perils of the
attempt. On the other hand, success in bringing about with Mexican
cooeperation a condition of political security and comparative stability
in Central America would augur well for the success of the larger and
more difficult attempt to perform a similar work for the whole American

The most difficult task, however, connected with the establishment of a
peaceful American international system is presented by Canada. In case
such a system were constituted, Canada should most assuredly form a part
of it. Yet she could not form a part of it without a radical alteration
in her relations with Great Britain. Canada is tied to the British
Imperial system, and her policy and destiny depends upon the policy and
destiny of the British Empire. She is content with this situation, not
merely because she is loyal to the mother country, but because she
believes that her association with Great Britain guarantees her
independence in respect to the United States. Many Canadians cherish a
profound conviction that the United States wishes nothing so much as
the annexation of the Dominion; and the one thing in the world which
they propose to prevent is a successful attack upon their independence.
This is the natural attitude of a numerically weak people, divided by a
long and indefensible frontier from a numerous and powerful neighbor;
and while the people of this country have done nothing since the War of
1812 positively to provoke such suspicions, they have, on the other
hand, done nothing to allay them. We have never attempted to secure the
good will of the Canadians in any respect; and we have never done
anything to establish better relations. Yet unless such better relations
are established, the United States will lose an indispensable ally in
the making of a satisfactory political system in the Western hemisphere
while at the same time the American people will be in the sorry
situation for a sincere democracy of having created only apprehension
and enmity on the part of their nearest and most intelligent neighbors.

Under such circumstances the very first object of the foreign policy of
the United States should be to place its relations with Canada on a
better footing. There was a time when this object could have been
accomplished by the negotiation of a liberal treaty of commercial
reciprocity. If the commercial policy of the United States had been
determined by its manifest national interest instead of by the interests
of a group of special industries, such a treaty would have been signed
many years ago. A great opportunity was lost when the negotiations
failed early in the eighties, because ever since Canada has been
tightening her commercial ties with Great Britain; and these ties will
be still further tightened as Canada grows into a large grain-exporting
country. But while it will be impossible to make an arrangement as
advantageous as the one which might have been made twenty-five years
ago, the national interest plainly demands the negotiation of the most
satisfactory treaty possible at the present time; and if the special
interests of a few industries are allowed to stand indefinitely in the
way, we shall be plainly exhibiting our incompetence to carry out an
enlightened and a truly national foreign policy. We shall be branding
ourselves with the mark of a merely trading democracy which is unable to
subordinate the selfish interests of a few of its citizens to the
realization of a policy combining certain commercial advantages with an
essential national object. Just as the maintenance of the present high
protective tariff is the clearest possible indication of the domination
of special over national interests in domestic politics, so the resolute
opposition which these industries show to the use of the tariff as an
instrument of a national foreign policy, suggests that the first duty of
the United States as a nation is to testify to its emancipation from
such bondage by revising the tariff. The matter concerns not merely
Canada, but the South American Republics; and it is safe to say that the
present policy of blind protection is an absolute bar to the realization
of that improved American political system which is the correlative in
foreign affairs of domestic individual and social amelioration.

The desirable result of the utmost possible commercial freedom between
Canada and the United States would be to prepare the way for closer
political association. By closer political association I do not mean the
annexation of Canada to the United States. Such annexation might not be
desirable even with the consent of Canada. What I do mean is some
political recognition of the fact that the real interests of Canada in
foreign affairs coincide with the interests of the United States rather
than with the interests of Great Britain. Great Britain's interest in
the independence of Holland or in the maintenance of the Turkish power
in Europe might involve England in a European war, in which Canada would
have none but a sentimental stake, but from which she might suffer
severe losses. At bottom Canada needs for her political and commercial
welfare disentanglement from European complications just as much as does
the United States; and the diplomacy, official and unofficial, of the
United States, should seek to convince Canada of the truth of this
statement. Neither need a policy which looked in that direction
necessarily incur the enmity of Great Britain. In view of the increasing
cost of her responsibilities in Europe and in Asia, England has a great
deal to gain by concentration and by a partial retirement from the
American continent, so far as such a retirement could be effected
without being recreant to her responsibilities towards Canada. The need
of such retirement has already been indicated by the diminution of her
fleet in American waters; and if her expenses and difficulties in Europe
and Asia increase, she might be glad to reach some arrangement with
Canada and the United States which would recognize a dominant Canadian
interest in freedom from exclusively European political vicissitudes.

Such an arrangement is very remote; but it looks as if under certain
probable future conditions, a treaty along the following lines might be
acceptable to Great Britain, Canada, and the United States. The American
and the English governments would jointly guarantee the independence of
Canada. Canada, on her part, would enter into an alliance with the
United States, looking towards the preservation of peace on the American
continents and the establishment of an American international political
system. Canada and the United States in their turn would agree to lend
the support of their naval forces to Great Britain in the event of a
general European war, but solely for the purpose of protecting the
cargoes of grain and other food which might be needed by Great Britain.
Surely the advantages of such an arrangement would be substantial and
well-distributed. Canada would feel secure in her independence, and
would be emancipated from irrelevant European complications. The United
States would gain support, which is absolutely essential for the proper
pacification of the American continent, and would pay for that support
only by an engagement consonant with her interest as a food-exporting
power. Great Britain would exchange a costly responsibility for an
assurance of food in the one event, which Britons must fear--viz., a
general European war with strong maritime powers on the other side. Such
an arrangement would, of course, be out of the question at present; but
it suggests the kind of treaty which might lead Great Britain to consent
to the national emancipation of Canada, and which could be effected
without endangering Canadian independence.

Any systematic development of the foreign policy of the United States,
such as proposed herewith, will seem very wild to the majority of
Americans. They will not concede its desirability, because the American
habit is to proclaim doctrines and policies, without considering either
the implications, the machinery necessary to carry them out, or the
weight of the resulting responsibilities. But in estimating the
practicability of the policy proposed, the essential idea must be
disentangled from any possible methods of realizing it--such as the
suggested treaty between the United States, Great Britain, and Canada.
An agreement along those lines may never be either practicable or
prudent, but the validity of the essential idea remains unaffected by
the abandonment of a detail. That idea demands that effective and
far-sighted arrangements be made in order to forestall the inevitable
future objections on the part of European nations to an uncompromising
insistence on the Monroe Doctrine; and no such arrangement is possible,
except by virtue of Canadian and Mexican cooeperation as well as that of
some of the South American states. It remains for American statesmanship
and diplomacy to discover little by little what means are practicable
and how much can be accomplished under any particular set of conditions.
A candid man must admit that the obstacles may prove to be insuperable.
One of any number of possible contingencies may serve to postpone its
realization indefinitely. Possibly neither Canada nor Great Britain will
consent to any accommodation with the United States. Possibly one or
more South American states will assume an aggressive attitude towards
their neighbors. Possibly their passions, prejudices, and suspicions
will make them prefer the hazards and the costs of military preparations
and absolute technical independence, even though their interests counsel
another course. Possibly the consequences of some general war in Europe
or Asia will react on the two Americas and embroil the international
situation to the point of hopeless misunderstanding and confusion.
Indeed, the probabilities are that in America as in Europe the road to
any permanent international settlement will be piled mountain high with
dead bodies, and will be traveled, if at all, only after a series of
abortive and costly experiments. But remote and precarious as is the
establishment of any American international system, it is not for
American statesmen necessarily either an impracticable, an irrelevant,
or an unworthy object. Fail though we may in the will, the intelligence,
or the power to carry it out, the systematic effort to establish a
peaceable American system is just as plain and just as inevitable a
consequence of the democratic national principle, as is the effort to
make our domestic institutions contribute to the work of individual and
social amelioration.



A genuinely national foreign policy for the American democracy is not
exhausted by the Monroe Doctrine. The United States already has certain
colonial interests; and these interests may hereafter be extended. I do
not propose at the present stage of this discussion to raise the
question as to the legitimacy in principle of a colonial policy on the
part of a democratic nation. The validity of colonial expansion even for
a democracy is a manifest deduction from the foregoing political
principles, always assuming that the people whose independence is
thereby diminished are incapable of efficient national organization. On
the other hand, a democratic nation cannot righteously ignore an
unusually high standard of obligation for the welfare of its colonial
population. It would be distinctly recreant to its duty, in case it
failed to provide for the economic prosperity of such a population, and
for their educational discipline and social improvement. It by no means
follows, however, that because there is no rigid objection on democratic
principles to colonial expansion, there may not be the strongest
practical objection on the score of national interest to the acquisition
of any particular territory. A remote colony is, under existing
international conditions, even more of a responsibility than it is a
source of national power and efficiency; and it is always a grave
question how far the assumption of any particular responsibility is
worth while.

Without entering into any specific discussion, there can, I think, be
little doubt that the United States was justified in assuming its
existing responsibilities in respect to Cuba and its much more abundant
responsibilities in respect to Porto Rico. Neither can it be fairly
claimed that hitherto the United States has not dealt disinterestedly
and in good faith with the people of these islands. On the other hand,
our acquisition of the Philippines raises a series of much more doubtful
questions. These islands have been so far merely an expensive
obligation, from which little benefit has resulted to this country and a
comparatively moderate benefit to the Filipinos. They have already cost
an amount of money far beyond any chance of compensation, and an amount
of American and Filipino blood, the shedding of which constitutes a
grave responsibility. Their future defense against possible attack
presents a military and naval problem of the utmost difficulty. In fact,
they cannot be defended from Japan except by the maintenance of a fleet
in Pacific waters at least as large as the Japanese fleet; and it does
not look probable that the United States will be able to afford for
another generation any such concentration of naval strength in the
Pacific. But even though from the military point of view the Philippines
may constitute a source of weakness and danger, their possession will
have the political advantage of keeping the American people alive to
their interests in the grave problems which will be raised in the Far
East by the future development of China and Japan.

The future of China raises questions of American foreign policy second
only in importance to the establishment of a stable American
international organization; and in relation to these questions, also,
the interests of the United States and Canada tend both to coincide and
to diverge (possibly) from those of Great Britain. Just what form the
Chinese question will assume, after the industrial and the political
awakening of China has resulted in a more effective military
organization and in greater powers both of production and consumption,
cannot be predicted with any certainty; but at present, it looks as if
the maintenance of the traditional American policy with respect to
China, viz., the territorial integrity and the free commercial
development of that country, might require quite as considerable a
concentration of naval strength in the Pacific as is required by the
defense of the Philippines. It is easy enough to enunciate such a
policy, just as it is easy to proclaim a Monroe Doctrine which no
European Power has any sufficient immediate interest to dispute; but it
is wholly improbable that China can be protected in its territorial
integrity and its political independence without a great deal of
diplomacy and more or less fighting. During the life of the coming
generation there will be brought home clearly to the American people how
much it will cost to assert its own essential interests in China; and
the peculiar value of the Philippines as an American colony will consist
largely in the fact that they will help American public opinion to
realize more quickly than it otherwise would the complications and
responsibilities created by Chinese political development and by
Japanese ambition.

The existence and the resolute and intelligent facing of such
responsibilities are an inevitable and a wholesome aspect of national
discipline and experience. The American people have too easily evaded
them in the past, but in the future they cannot be evaded; and it is
better so. The irresponsible attitude of Americans in respect to their
national domestic problems may in part be traced to freedom from equally
grave international responsibilities. In truth, the work of internal
reconstruction and amelioration, so far from being opposed to that of
the vigorous assertion of a valid foreign policy, is really correlative
and supplementary thereto; and it is entirely possible that hereafter
the United States will be forced into the adoption of a really national
domestic policy because of the dangers and duties incurred through her
relations with foreign countries.

The increasingly strenuous nature of international competition and the
constantly higher standards of international economic, technical, and
political efficiency prescribe a constantly improving domestic political
and economic organization. The geographical isolation which affords the
United States its military security against foreign attack should not
blind Americans to the merely comparative nature of their isolation. The
growth of modern sea power and the vast sweep of modern national
political interests have at once diminished their security, and
multiplied the possible sources of contact between American and European
interests. No matter how peaceably the United States is inclined, and no
matter how advantageously it is situated, the American nation is none
the less constantly threatened by political warfare, and constantly
engaged in industrial warfare. The American people can no more afford
than can a European people to neglect any necessary kind or source of
efficiency. Sooner than ever before in the history of the world do a
nation's sins and deficiencies find it out. Under modern conditions a
country which takes its responsibilities lightly, and will not submit to
the discipline necessary to political efficiency, does not gradually
decline, as Spain did in the seventeenth century. It usually goes down
with a crash, as France did in 1870, or as Russia has just done. The
effect of diminishing economic efficiency is not as suddenly and
dramatically exhibited; but it is no less inevitable and no less severe.
And the service which the very intensity of modern international
competition renders to a living nation arises precisely from the
searching character of the tests to which it subjects the several
national organizations. Austria-Hungary has been forced to assume a
secondary position in Europe, because the want of national cohesion and
vitality deprived her political advance of all momentum. Russia has
suddenly discovered that a corrupt bureaucracy is incapable of a
national organization as efficient as modern military and political
competition requires. It was desirable in the interest of the Austrians,
the Hungarians, and the Russians, that these weaknesses should be
exposed; and if the Christian states of the West ever become so
organized that their weaknesses are concealed until their consequences
become irremediable, Western civilization itself will be on the road to
decline. The Atlantic Ocean will, in the long run, fail to offer the
United States any security from the application of the same searching
standards. Its democratic institutions must be justified, not merely by
the prosperity which they bestow upon its own citizens, but by its
ability to meet the standards of efficiency imposed by other nations.
Its standing as a nation is determined precisely by its ability to
conquer and to hold a dignified and important place in the society of

The inference inevitably is that the isolation which has meant so much
to the United States, and still means so much, cannot persist in its
present form. Its geographical position will always have a profound
influence on the strategic situation of the United States in respect to
the European Powers. It should always emancipate the United States from
merely European complications. But, while the American nation should
never seek a positive place in an exclusively European system, Europe,
the United States, Japan, and China must all eventually take their
respective places in a world system. While such a system is still so
remote that it merely shows dimly through the obscurity of the future,
its manifest desirability brings with it certain definite but contingent
obligations in addition to the general obligation of comprehensive and
thorough-going national efficiency. It brings with it the obligation of
interfering under certain possible circumstances in what may at first
appear to be a purely European complication; and this specific
obligation would be the result of the general obligation of a democratic
nation to make its foreign policy serve the cause of international
peace. Hitherto, the American preference and desire for peace has
constituted the chief justification for its isolation. At some future
time the same purpose, just in so far as it is sincere and rational, may
demand intervention. The American responsibility in this respect is
similar to that of any peace-preferring European Power. If it wants
peace, it must be spiritually and physically prepared to fight for it.
Peace will prevail in international relations, just as order prevails
within a nation, because of the righteous use of superior force--because
the power which makes for pacific organization is stronger than the
power which makes for a warlike organization. It looks as if at some
future time the power of the United States might well be sufficient,
when thrown into the balance, to tip the scales in favor of a
comparatively pacific settlement of international complications. Under
such conditions a policy of neutrality would be a policy of
irresponsibility and unwisdom.

The notion of American intervention in a European conflict, carrying
with it either the chance or the necessity of war, would at present be
received with pious horror by the great majority of Americans.
Non-interference in European affairs is conceived, not as a policy
dependent upon certain conditions, but as absolute law--derived from the
sacred writings. If the issue should be raised in the near future, the
American people would be certain to shirk it; and they would, perhaps,
have some reason for a failure to understand their obligation, because
the course of European political development has not as yet been such as
to raise the question in a decisive form. All one can say as to the
existing situation is that there are certain Powers which have very much
more to lose than they have to gain by war. These Powers are no longer
small states like Belgium, Switzerland, and Holland, but populous and
powerful states like Great Britain, Italy, and France. It may be one or
it may be many generations before the issue of a peaceful or a warlike
organization is decisively raised. When, if ever, it is decisively
raised, the system of public law, under which any organization would
have to take place, may not be one which the United States could accept.
But the point is that, whenever and however it is raised, the American
national leaders should confront it with a sound, well-informed, and
positive conception of the American national interest rather than a
negative and ignorant conception. And there is at least a fair chance
that such will be the case. The experience of the American people in
foreign affairs is only beginning, and during the next few generations
the growth of their traffic with Asia and Europe will afford them every
reason and every opportunity to ponder seriously the great international
problem of peace in its relation to the American national democratic

The idea which is most likely to lead them astray is the idea which
vitiates the Monroe Doctrine in its popular form,--the idea of some
essential incompatibility between Europeanism and Americanism. That idea
has given a sort of religious sanctity to the national tradition of
isolation; and it will survive its own utility because it flatters
American democratic vanity. But if such an idea should prevent the
American nation from contributing its influence to the establishment of
a peaceful system in Europe, America, and Asia, such a refusal would be
a decisive stop toward American democratic degeneracy. It would either
mean that the American nation preferred its apparently safe and easy
isolation to the dangers and complications which would inevitably attend
the final establishment of a just system of public law; or else it would
mean that the American people believed more in Americanism than they did
in democracy. A decent guarantee of international peace would be
precisely the political condition which would enable the European
nations to release the springs of democracy; and the Americanism which
was indifferent or suspicious of the spread of democracy in Europe would
incur and deserve the enmity of the European peoples. Such an attitude
would constitute a species of continental provincialism and chauvinism.
Hence there is no shibboleth that patriotic Americans should fight more
tenaciously and more fiercely than of America for the Americans, and
Europe for the Europeans. To make Pan-Americanism merely a matter of
geography is to deprive it of all serious meaning. Pan-Slavism or
Pan-Germanism, based upon a racial bond, would be a far more significant
political idea. The only possible foundation of Pan-Americanism is an
ideal democratic purpose--which, when translated into terms of
international relations, demands, in the first place, the establishment
of a pacific system of public law in the two Americas, and in the second
place, an alliance with the pacific European Powers, just in so far as a
similar system has become in that continent one of the possibilities of
practical politics.





In the foregoing chapter I have traced the larger aspects of a
constructive relation between the national and democratic principles in
the field of foreign politics. The task remains of depicting somewhat in
detail the aspect which our more important domestic problems assume from
the point of view of the same relationship. The general outlines of this
picture have already been roughly sketched; but the mere sketch of a
fruitful general policy is not enough. A national policy must be
justified by the flexibility with which, without any loss of its
integrity, it can be applied to specific problems, differing radically
one from another in character and significance. That the idea of a
constructive relationship between nationality and democracy is flexible
without being invertebrate is one of its greatest merits. It is not a
rigid abstract and partial ideal, as is that of an exclusively socialist
or an exclusively individualist democracy. Neither is it merely a
compromise, suited to certain practical exigencies, between
individualism and socialism. Its central formative idea can lend itself
to many different and novel applications, while still remaining true to
its own fundamental interest.

Flexible though the national ideal may be, its demands are in one
respect inflexible. It is the strenuous and irrevocable enemy of the
policy of drift. It can counsel patience; but it cannot abide collective
indifference or irresponsibility. A constructive national ideal must at
least seek humbly to be constructive. The only question is, as to how
this responsibility for the collective welfare can at any one time be
most usefully redeemed. In the case of our own country at the present
time an intelligent conception of the national interest will counsel
patient agitation rather than any hazardous attempts at radical
reconstruction. No such reform can be permanent, or even healthy, until
American public opinion has been converted to a completer realization of
the nature and extent of its national responsibilities. The ship of
reform will gather most headway from the association of certain very
moderate practical proposals with the issue of a deliberate, persistent,
and far more radical challenge to popular political prejudices and
errors. It will be sufficient, in case our practical proposals seek to
accomplish some small measure both of political and economic
reconstruction, and in case they occupy some sort of a family relation
to plans of the same kind with which American public opinion is already
more or less familiar.

In considering this matter of institutional reform, I shall be guided
chiefly by the extent to which certain specific reforms have already
become living questions. From this point of view it would be a sheer
waste of time just at present to discuss seriously any radical
modification, say, of the Federal Constitution. Certain transformations
of the Constitution either by insidious effect of practice, by
deliberate judicial construction, or by amendment are, of course, an
inevitable aspect of the contemporary American political problem; but
all such possible and proposed changes must be confined to specific
details. They should not raise any question as to the fundamental
desirability of a system of checks and balances or of the other
principles upon which the Federal political organization is based. Much,
consequently, as a political theorist may be interested in some ideal
plan of American national organization, it will be of little benefit
under existing conditions to enter into such a discussion. Let it wait
until Americans have come to think seriously and consistently about
fundamental political problems. The Federal Constitution is not all it
should be, but it is better than any substitute upon which American
public opinion could now agree. Modifications may and should somehow be
made in details, but for the present not in fundamentals. On the other
hand, no similar sanctity attaches to municipal charters and state
constitutions. The ordinary state constitution is a sufficiently
ephemeral piece of legislation. State and municipal political forms are
being constantly changed, and they are being changed because they have
been so extremely unsatisfactory in their actual operation. The local
political machinery becomes, consequently, the natural and useful
subject of reconstructive experiments. A policy of institutional reform
must prove its value and gain its experience chiefly in this field; and
in formulating such a policy reformers will be placing their hands upon
the most palpable and best-recognized weakness in the American political

A popular but ill-founded American political illusion concerns the
success of their state governments. Americans tend to believe that these
governments have on the whole served them well, whereas in truth they
have on the whole been ill served by their machinery of local
administration and government. The failure has not, perhaps, been as
egregious or as scandalous as has been that of their municipal
institutions; but it has been sufficiently serious to provoke continual
but abortive attempts to improve them; and it has had so many dangerous
consequences that the cause and cure of their inefficiency constitute
one of the most fundamental of American political problems. The
consequences of the failure have been mitigated because the weakness of
the state governments has been partly concealed and redeemed by the
comparative strength and efficiency of the central government. But the
failures have none the less been sufficiently distressing; and if they
are permitted to continue, they will compromise the success of the
American democratic experiment. The Federal government has done much to
ameliorate the condition of the American people, whereas the state
governments have done little or nothing. Instead of representing, as a
government should, the better contemporary ideals and methods, they have
reflected at best the average standard of popular behavior and at worst
a standard decidedly below the average. The lawlessness which so many
Americans bemoan in American life must be traced to the inefficiency of
the state governments. If the central government had shared this
weakness, the American political organism would have already dissolved
in violence and bloodshed.

The local authorities retain under the American Federal organization
many of the primary functions of government. They preserve order,
administer civil and criminal justice, collect taxes for general and
local purposes, and are directly or indirectly responsible for the
system of public education. If it can be proved that the state
governments have exercised any of these functions in an efficient
manner, that proof certainly does not lie upon the surface of the facts.
The provisions they have made for keeping order have been utterly
inadequate, and have usually broken down when any serious reason for
disorder has existed. A certain part of this violence is, moreover, the
immediate result of the failure of American criminal justice. The
criminal laws have been so carefully framed and so admirably expounded
for the benefit of the lawyers and their clients, the malefactors, that
a very large proportion of American murderers escape the proper penalty
of their acts; and these dilatory and dubious judicial methods are
undoubtedly one effective cause of the prevalence of lynching in the
South. There is more to be said in favor of our civil than of our
criminal courts. In spite of a good deal of corruption and of
subserviency to special interests, the judges are usually honest men and
good average lawyers; but the fact that they are elected for
comparatively short terms has made them the creatures of the political
machine, and has demoralized their political standards. They use court
patronage largely for the benefit of the machine; and whatever influence
they have in politics is usually exercised in favor of the professional
politician. If they do not constitute a positive weakness in the system
of local government, they are certainly far from constituting a source
of strength; and considering the extent to which our government is a
government of judges, they should exercise a far more beneficent
influence than they do.

Neither are the administrative and legislative responsibilities of the
states redeemed with any more success. The tax systems of the several
states are in a chaotic condition. Their basis consists of the old
property tax, which under its application to modern conditions has
become both unjust and unproductive, but which the state legislatures
seem to be wholly incapable of either abandoning or properly
transforming. In the matter of education the states have been, except in
the South, liberal; but they have not been as intelligent and
well-informed as they have been well-intentioned. The educational system
of the country is not only chaotic, but it is very imperfectly adapted
to the needs of an industrial and agricultural democracy. Finally, if
the legislatures of the several states have ever done anything to
increase respect for the wisdom and conservatism of American
representative government, it is certainly hard to discover indications
thereof. The financial and economic legislation of the states has
usually shown incompetence and frequently dishonesty. They have
sometimes been ready to repudiate their debts. In their relations to the
corporations they have occupied the positions alternately of
blackmailers and creatures. They have been as ready to confiscate
private property as they have to confer on it excessive privileges. If
the word "law" means something less majestic and authoritative to
Americans than it should, the mass of trivial, contradictory, unwise,
ephemeral, and corrupt legislation passed by the state legislatures is
largely responsible.

No doubt a certain part of this failure of the state governments is
irremediable as long as existing standards of public and private
morality prevail; but most assuredly a certain part is the direct result
of unwise organization. American state governments have been corrupt and
inefficient largely because they have been organized for the benefit of
corrupt and inefficient men; and as long as they continue to be
organized on such a basis, no permanent or substantial improvement can
be expected. Moreover, any reorganization in order to be effective must
not deal merely with details and expedients. It must be as radical as
are the existing disorganization and abuses. It must be founded on a
different relation between the executive and legislative branches and a
wholly different conception of the function of a state legislative body.

The demand for some such reorganization has already become popular,
particularly in the West. A generation or more ago the makers of new
state constitutions, being confronted by palpable proofs of the
inefficiency and corruption of the state governments, sought to provide
a remedy chiefly by limiting the power of the legislature. All sorts of
important details, which would have formerly been left to legislative
action, were incorporated in the fundamental law; and in the same spirit
severe restrictions were imposed on legislative procedure, designed to
prevent the most flagrant existing abuses. These prudential measures
have not served to improve the legislative output, and the reformers are
now crying for more drastic remedies. In the West the tendency is to
transfer legislative authority from a representative body directly to
the people. A movement in favor of the initiative and the referendum is
gaining so much headway, that in all probability it will spread
throughout the country much as the Australian ballot did over a decade
ago. But the adoption of the initiative and the referendum substitutes a
new principle for the one which has hitherto underlain American local
institutions. Representative government is either abandoned thereby or
very much restricted; and direct government, so far as possible, is
substituted for it. Such a fundamental principle and tradition as that
of representation should not be thrown away, unless the change can be
justified by a specific, comprehensive, and conclusive analysis of the
causes of the failure of the state governments.

The analysis upon which the advocates of the initiative and the
referendum base their reform has the merit of being obvious. American
legislatures have betrayed the interests of their constituents, and have
been systematically passing laws for the benefit of corrupt and special
interests. The people must consequently take back the trust, which has
been delegated to representative bodies. They must resume at least the
power to initiate the legislation they want; and no law dealing with a
really important subject should be passed without their direct consent.

Such an analysis of the causes of legislative corruption and
incompetence is not as correct as it is obvious. It is based upon the
old and baleful democratic tendency of always seeking the reason for the
failure of a democratic enterprise in some personal betrayal of trust.
It is never the people who are at fault. Neither is the betrayal
attributed to some defect of organization, which neglects to give the
representative individual a sufficient chance. The responsibility for
the failure is fastened on the selected individual himself, and the
conclusion is drawn that the people cannot trust representatives to
serve them honestly and efficiently. The course of reasoning is
precisely the same as that which prompted the Athenian democracy to
order the execution of an unsuccessful general. In the case of our state
legislatures, a most flagrant betrayal of trust has assuredly occurred,
but before inferring from this betrayal that selected individuals cannot
be trusted to legislate properly on behalf of their constituents, it
would be just as well to inquire whether individual incompetence and
turpitude are any sufficient reason for this particular failure of
representative institutions.

As a matter of fact they are no sufficient reason. When a large number
of individuals to whom authority is delegated exercise that authority
improperly, one may safely infer that the system is at fault as much as
the individual. Local American legislative organization has courted
failure. Both the system of representation and functions of the
representative body have been admirably calculated to debase the quality
of the representatives and to nullify the value of their work. American
state legislatures have really never had a fair opportunity. They have
almost from the beginning been deprived of any effective responsibility.
The state constitutions have gradually hedged them in with so many
restrictions, have gone so much into detail in respect to state
organization and policy that the legislatures really had comparatively
little to do, except to deal with matters of current business. They
offered no opportunity for a man of ability and public spirit. When such
men drifted into a local legislature, they naturally escaped as soon as
they could to some larger and less obstructed field of action. If the
American people want better legislatures, they must adopt one of two
courses. Either they must give their legislative bodies something more
and better to do, or else they must arrange so that these bodies will
have a chance to perform an inferior but definite service more capably.

The legislatures have been corrupt and incapable, chiefly because they
have not been permitted any sufficient responsibility, but this
irresponsibility itself has had more than one cause. It cannot be traced
exclusively to the diminished confidence and power reposed in
representative bodies by the state constitutions. Early in the
nineteenth century, the legislatures were granted almost full
legislative powers; and if they did not use those powers well, they used
them much better than at a later period. Their corruption began with the
domination of the political machine; and it is during the last two
generations that their powers and responsibilities have been more and
more restricted. They have undoubtedly been more corrupt and incompetent
in proportion as they have been increasingly deprived of power; but the
restrictions imposed upon them have been as much an effect as a cause of
their corruption. There is a deeper reason for their deficiencies; and
this reason is connected with mal-adaptation of the whole system of
American state government to its place in a Federal system. The Federal
organization took away from the states a number of the most important
governmental functions, and in certain respects absolutely subordinated
the state to the nation. In this way the actual responsibilities and the
powers of the state governments were very much diminished, while at the
same time no sufficient allowance for such a diminution was made in
framing their organization. Their governments were organized along the
same lines as that of an independent state--in spite of the fact that
they had abandoned so many of the responsibilities and prerogatives of

The effect of this mal-adaptation of the state political institutions to
their place in a Federal system has been much more important than is
usually supposed. The former were planned to fulfill a much completer
responsibility than the one which they actually possessed. The public
business of a wholly or technically independent state naturally arouses
in its citizens a much graver sense of responsibility than does the
public business of a state in the American Union. The latter retained
many important duties; but it surrendered, if not the most essential of
its functions, at least the most critical and momentous, while in the
exercise of the remainder it was to a certain extent protected against
the worst consequences of mistakes or perversities. It surrendered the
power of making peace or declaring war. Its relation to the other states
in the Union was strictly defined, so that it had no foreign policy and
responsibilities corresponding to its purely domestic ones. Its citizens
were aware that the protection of such fundamental institutions as that
of private property was lodged in the Federal government, and that in
the end that government had the power to guarantee them even against the
worst consequences of domestic disorder. Thus the state governments were
placed in the easy situation of rich annuitants, who had surrendered the
control of some political capital in order to enjoy with less care the
opportunities of a plethoric income.

The foregoing comment is not intended as any disparagement of a Federal
as contrasted with a centralized political system. Its purpose is to
justify the statement that, in a Federal system, local political
institutions should be adapted to their necessarily restricted
functions. The state governments were organized as smaller copies of the
central government, and the only alterations in the type permitted by
the Democrats looked in the direction of a further distribution of
responsibility. But a system which was adapted to the comprehensive task
of securing the welfare of a whole people might well fail as an engine
of merely local government,--even though the local government retained
certain major political functions. As a matter of fact, such has been
the case. The system of a triple division of specific powers, each one
of which was vigorous in its own sphere while at the same time checked
and balanced by the other branches of the government, has certain
advantages and certain disadvantages. Its great advantage is its
comparative safety, because under it no one function of government can
attain to any dangerous excess of power. Its great disadvantage consists
in the division of responsibility among three independent departments,
and the possibility that the public interest would suffer either from
lack of cooeperation or from actual conflicts. In the case of the general
government, the comparative safety of the system of checks and balances
was of paramount importance, because the despotic exercise of its vast
powers would have wrecked the whole American political system. On the
other hand, the disadvantages of such a system--its division of
responsibility and the possible lack of cooeperation among the several
departments--were mitigated to a considerable, if not to a sufficient,
extent. National parties came into existence with the function of
assuming a responsibility which no single group of Federal officials
possessed; and in their management of national affairs, the partisan
leaders were prompted by a certain amount of patriotism and interest in
the public welfare. Even at Washington the system works badly enough in
certain respects; but in general the dominant party can be held to a
measure of responsibility; and effective cooeperation is frequently
obtained in matters of foreign policy and the like through the action of
patriotic and disinterested motives.

In the state governments the advantages of a system of checks and
balances were of small importance, while its disadvantages were
magnified. The state governments had no reason to sacrifice concentrated
efficiency to safety, because in a Federal organization the temporary
exercise of arbitrary executive or legislative power in one locality
would not have entailed any irretrievable consequences, and could not
impair the fundamental integrity of the American system. But if a state
had less to lose from a betrayal by a legislature or an executive of a
substantially complete responsibility for the public welfare, it was not
protected to the same extent as the central government against the
abuses of a diffused responsibility. In the state capitals, as at
Washington, the national parties did, indeed, make themselves
responsible for the management of public affairs and for the harmonious
cooeperation of the executive and the legislature; but in their conduct
of local business the national parties retained scarcely a vestige of
national patriotism. Their behavior was dictated by the most selfish
factional and personal motives. They did, indeed, secure the cooeperation
of the different branches of the government, but largely for corrupt or
undesirable purposes; and after the work was done the real authors of it
could hide behind the official division of responsibility.

If the foregoing analysis is correct, the partial failure of American
state governments is to be imputed chiefly to their lack of a
centralized responsible organization. In their case a very simple and
very efficient legislative and administrative system is the more
necessary, because only through such a machinery can the local public
spirit receive any effective expression. It can hardly be expected that
American citizens will bring as much public spirit to their local public
business as to the more stirring affairs of the whole nation; and what
local patriotism there is should be confronted by no unnecessary
obstacles. If a mistake or an abuse occurs, the responsibility for it
should be unmistakable and absolute, while if a reform candidate or
party is victorious, they should control a machinery of government
wholly sufficient for their purposes.

As soon as any attempt is made to devise a system which does concentrate
responsibility and power, serious difficulties are encountered.
Concentration of responsibility can be brought about in one of two
ways--either by subordinating the legislature to the executive or the
executive to the legislature. There are precedents both here and abroad
in favor of each of these methods, and their comparative advantages must
be briefly sketched.

The subordination of the executive to the legislature would conform to
the early American political tradition. We have usually associated
executive authority with arbitrary and despotic political methods, and
we have tended to assume that a legislative body was much more
representative of popular opinion. During or immediately succeeding the
Revolutionary War, the legislatures of the several states were endowed
with almost complete control--a control which was subject only to the
constitutional bills of rights; and it has been seriously and frequently
proposed to revive this complete legislative responsibility. Under such
a system, the legislature would elect the chief executive, if not the
judicial officials; and it would become like the British Parliament
exclusively and comprehensively responsible for the work of
government--both in its legislative and administrative branches.

The foregoing type of organization has so many theoretical advantages
that one would like to see it tried in some American states. But for the
present it is not likely to be tried. The responsibility of the
legislature could not be exercised without the creation of some
institution corresponding to the British Cabinet: and the whole tendency
of American political development has been away from any approach to the
English Parliamentary system. Whatever the theoretical advantages of
legislative omnipotence, it would constitute in this country a dangerous
and dubious method of concentrating local governmental responsibility
and power. It might succeed, in case it were accompanied by the adoption
of some effective measures for improving the quality of the
representation--such, for instance, as the abandonment of all existing
traditions necessitating the residence of the representative in the
district he represents. This American political practice always has and
always will tend to give mediocrity to the American popular
representation, but it corresponds to one of the most fundamental of
American political prejudices, and for the present its abandonment is
out of the question. The work of improving the quality of the average
American representative from a small district appears to be hopeless,
because as a matter of fact such small districts and the work imposed on
their representatives can hardly prove tempting to able men; and unless
the American legislator is really capable of becoming exceptionally
representative, the fastening of exclusive responsibility upon the state
legislatures could hardly result in immediate success. Its intrinsic
merits might carry it to ultimate success, but not until it had
transformed many American political practices and traditions.

The truth is, that certain very deep and permanent causes underlie
American legislative degeneracy. When the American legislative system
was framed, a representative assembly possessed a much better chance
than it does now of becoming a really representative body. It
constituted at the time an effective vehicle for the formation and
expression of public opinion. Public questions had not received the
complete ventilation on the platform and in the press that they obtain
at the present time; and in the debate of a representative assembly the
chance existed of a really illuminating and formative conflict of
opinion. Representatives were often selected, who were capable of adding
something to the candid and serious consideration of a question of
public policy. The need helped to develop men capable of meeting it.
Now, however, American legislatures, with the partial exception of the
Federal Senate, have ceased to be deliberative bodies. Public questions
receive their effective discussion in the press and on the platform.
Public opinion is definitely formed before the meeting of the
legislature; and the latter has become simply a vehicle for realizing or
betraying the mandates of popular opinion. Its function is or should be
to devise or to help in the devising of means, necessary to accomplish a
predetermined policy. Its members have little or no initiative and
little or no independence. Legislative projects are imposed upon them
either by party leaders, by special interests, or at times by the
executive and public opinion. Their work is at best that of
committee-men and at worst that of mercenaries, paid to betray their
original employers. A successful attempt to bestow upon legislative
bodies, composed of such doubtful material and subject to such equivocal
traditions anything resembling complete governmental responsibility,
would be a dangerous business. Legislatures have degenerated into the
condition of being merely agents, rather than principals in the work of
government; and the strength and the propriety of the contemporary
movement in favor of the initiative and the referendum is to be
attributed to this condition.

The increasing introduction of the referendum into the local political
organization is partly a recognition of the fact that the legislatures
have ceased to play an independent part in the work of government. There
is every reason to believe that hereafter the voters will obtain and
keep a much more complete and direct control over the making of their
laws than that which they have exerted hitherto; and the possible
desirability of the direct exercise of this function cannot be disputed
by any loyal democrat. The principle upon which the referendum is based
is unimpeachable; but a question remains as to the manner in which the
principle of direct legislation can be best embodied in a piece of
practical political machinery; and the attempt to solve this question
involves a consideration of the general changes in our system of local
government, which may be required, as a result of the application of the
new principle.

The necessary limits of this discussion forbid any exhaustive
consideration of the foregoing questions; and I must content myself with
a brief summary of the method in which the principle of direct
legislation can be made the part of an efficient local political system.
The difficulty is to find some means of distinguishing that part of the
legislative responsibility which should be retained by the people and
that part which, in order to be effectively redeemed, must be delegated.
Obviously the part to be retained is the function of accepting or
rejecting certain general proposals respecting state organization or
policy. An American electorate is or should be entirely competent to
decide whether in general it wishes gambling or the sale of intoxicating
liquors to be suppressed, whether it is willing or unwilling to delegate
large judicial and legislative authority to commissions, or whether it
wishes to exempt buildings from local taxation. In retaining the power
of deciding for itself these broad questions of public legislative
policy, it is exercising a function, adapted to the popular intelligence
and both disciplinary and formative in its effect on those who take the
responsibility seriously. Under any system of popular government--even
under a parliamentary system--such general questions are eventually
submitted to popular decision; and the more decisively they can be
submitted, the better. On the other hand, there is a large part of the
work of government, which must be delegated by the people to select
individuals, because it can be efficiently exercised only by peculiarly
experienced or competent men. The people are capable of passing upon the
general principle embodied in a proposed law; but they cannot be
expected to decide with any certainty of judgment about amendments or
details, which involve for their intelligent consideration technical and
special knowledge. Efficient law-making is as much a matter of
well-prepared and well-tempered detail as it is of an excellent general
principle, and this branch of legislation must necessarily be left to
experts selected in one way or another to represent the popular
interest. How can they best be selected and what should be their

An answer to these questions involves a consideration of the changes
which the referendum should bring with it in the whole system of local
government--an aspect of the matter which according to the usual
American habit has hitherto been neglected. In states like Oregon the
power of initiating and consummating legislation is bestowed on the
electorate without being taken away from the legislature; and a certain
share of necessary political business is left to a body which has been
expressly declared unworthy to exercise a more important share of the
same task. A legislative body, whose responsibilities and power are
still further reduced, will probably exercise their remaining functions
with even greater incompetence, and will, if possible, be composed of a
still more inferior class of legislative agents. If the legislature is
to perform the inferior but still necessary functions that will
necessarily remain in its hands, an attempt should certainly be made to
obtain a better quality of representation. No direct system of state
government can constitute any really substantial improvement on the
existing system, unless either the legislature is deprived of all really
essential functions, or the quality of its membership improved.

The legislature, or some representative body corresponding to it,
cannot, however, be deprived of certain really essential functions. The
task of preparing legislation for reference to the people, so that a
question of public policy will be submitted in a decisive and acceptable
form, belongs naturally to a representative body; and the same statement
is true respecting the legislative work essential to the administration
of a state's business affairs. The supply bills demand an amount of
inspection in detail, which can obtain only by expert supervision; and
so it is in respect to various minor legislative matters which do not
raise question of general policy but which amount to little more than
problems of local administrative detail. A representative body must be
provided which shall perform work of this kind; and again, it must be
said that existing legislatures would perform these more restricted
functions even worse than they have performed a completer legislative
duty. Their members are experts in nothing but petty local politics.
They are usually wholly incapable of drawing a bill, or of passing
intelligently on matters either of technical or financial detail. If
they represent anything, it is the interest of their district rather
than that of the state. The principle of direct legislation, in order to
become really constructive, must bring with it a more effective
auxiliary machinery than any which existing legislatures can supply.

The kind of machinery needed can be deduced from the character of the
work. The function of the representative body, needed under a system of
direct legislation, is substantially that of a legislative and
administrative council or commission. It should be an experienced body
of legal, administrative, and financial experts, comparatively limited
in numbers, and selected in a manner to make them solicitous of the
interests of the whole state. They should be elected, consequently, from
comparatively large districts, or, if possible, by the electorate of the
whole state under some system of cumulative voting. The work of such a
council would not be in any real sense legislative; and its creation
would simply constitute a candid recognition of the plain fact that our
existing legislatures, either with or without the referendum, no longer
perform a responsible legislative function. It would be tantamount to a
scientific organization of the legislative committees, which at the
present time exercise an efficient control over the so-called
legislative output. This council would mediate between the governor,
who administered the laws, and the people, who enacted them. It would
constitute a check upon the governor, and would in turn be checked by
him; while it would act in relation to the people as a sort of technical
advisory commission, with the duty of preparing legislation for popular
enactment or rejection.

But how would such specific legislative proposals originate? Before
answering this question let us consider how important bills actually
originate under the existing system. They are in almost every case
imposed upon the legislature by some outside influence. Sometimes they
are prepared by corporation lawyers and are introduced by the special
corporation representatives. Sometimes they originate with the party
"bosses," and are intended to promote some more or less important
partisan purpose. Sometimes they are drawn by associations of reformers,
and go to the legislature with whatever support from public opinion the
association can collect. Finally, they are frequently introduced at the
suggestion of the governor; and of late years during the growth of the
reform movement, the executive has in point of fact become more and more
responsible for imposing on the legislature laws desired or supposed to
be desired by the electorate. Of these different sources of existing
legislation, the last suggests a manner of initiating legislation, which
is most likely to make for the efficient concentration of governmental
responsibility. The governor should be empowered not merely to suggest
legislation to the council, but to introduce it into the council. His
right to introduce legislation need not be exclusive, but bills
introduced by him should have a certain precedence and their
consideration should claim a definite amount of the council's time. The
council would possess, of course, full right of rejection or amendment.
In the case of rejection or an amendment not acceptable to the governor
the question at issue would be submitted to popular vote.

The method of originating legislation suggested above is, of course,
entirely different from that ordinarily associated with the referendum.
According to the usual methods of direct legislation, any body of
electors of a certain size can effect the introduction of a bill and its
submission to popular vote; but a method of this kind is really no
method at all. It allows the electorate to be bombarded with a
succession of legislative proposals, turning perhaps on radical
questions of public policy like the single tax, which may be well or ill
drawn, which may or may not be living questions of the day, which may or
may not have received sufficient preparatory discussion, and which would
keep public opinion in a wholly unnecessary condition of ferment. Some
organized control over the legislative proposals submitted to popular
approval is absolutely necessary; and the sort of control suggested
above merely conforms to the existing unofficial practice of those
states wherein public opinion has been aroused. The best reform
legislation now enacted usually originates in executive mansions. Why
should not the practice be made official? If it were so, every candidate
for governor would have to announce either a definite legislative policy
or the lack of one; and the various items composing this policy would be
fully discussed during the campaign. In proposing such a policy the
governor would be held to a high sense of responsibility. He could not
escape from the penalties of an unwise, an ill-drawn, or a foolhardy
legislative proposal. At the same time he would be obliged constantly to
meet severe criticism both as to the principle and details of his
measures on the part of the legislative council. Such criticism would
fasten upon any weakness and would sufficiently protect the public
against the submission of unnecessary, foolish, or dangerous legislative

I am aware, of course, that the plan of legislative organization,
vaguely sketched above, will seem to be most dubious to the great
majority of Americans, intelligently interested in political matters;
but before absolutely condemning these suggestions as wild or dangerous,
the reader should consider the spirit in which and the purpose for which
they are made. My intention has not been to prepare a detailed plan of
local governmental organization and to stamp it as the only one, which
is correct in principle and coherent in detail. In a sense I care
nothing about the precise suggestions submitted in the preceding
paragraphs. They are offered, not as a definite plan of local political
organization, but as the illustration of a principle. The principle is
that both power and responsibility in affairs of local government should
be peculiarly concentrated. It cannot be concentrated without some
simplification of machinery and without giving either the legislature or
the executive a dominant authority. In the foregoing plan the executive
has been made dominant, because as a matter of fact recent political
experience has conclusively proved that the executives, elected by the
whole constituency, are much more representative of public opinion than
are the delegates of petty districts. One hundred district agents
represent only one hundred districts and not the whole state, or the
state in so far as it is whole. In the light of current American
political realities the executive deserves the greater share of
responsibility and power; and that is why the proposal is made to bestow
it on him. The other details of the foregoing plan have been proposed in
a similar spirit. They are innovations; but they are innovations which
may naturally (and perhaps should) result from certain living practices
and movements in American local politics. They merely constitute an
attempt to give those ideas and practices candid recognition. No such
reorganization may ever be reached in American local government; and I
may have made essential mistakes in estimating the real force of certain
current practices and the real value of certain remedial expedients. But
on two points the argument admits of no concession. Any practical scheme
of local institutional reform must be based on the principle of more
concentrated responsibility and power, and it must be reached by
successive experimental attempts to give a more consistent and efficient
form to actual American political practices.

The bestowal upon an executive of increased official responsibility and
power will be stigmatized by "old-fashioned Democrats" as dangerously
despotic; and it may be admitted that in the case of the central
government, any official increase of executive power might bring with it
the risk of usurpation. The Constitution of the United States has made
the President a much more responsible and vigorous executive in his own
sphere of action than are the governors of the several states in theirs;
and he can with his present power exercise a tolerably effective control
over legislation. But the states, for reasons already given, are
protected against the worst possible consequences of illegal usurpation;
and in any event the people, in case their interests were threatened,
could make use of a simple and absolutely effective remedy. The action
of the governor or of any member of the legislative council could be
challenged by the application of the recall. He could be made to prove
his loyalty to the Constitution and to the public interest by the
holding of a special election at the instance of a sufficient number of
voters; and if he could not justify any possibly dubious practices, he
could be displaced and replaced. The recall is for this purpose a useful
and legitimate political device. It has the appearance at the first
glance of depriving an elected official of the sense of independence and
security which he may derive from his term of office; and unquestionably
if applied to officials who served for very short terms and exercised no
effective responsibility during service it would deprive them of what
little power of public service they possessed. On the other hand, it is
right that really responsible and vigorous officials serving for
comparatively long terms should be subjected to the check of a possible
recall of the popular trust.

No plan of political organization can in the nature of things offer an
absolute guarantee that a government will not misuse its powers; but a
government of the kind suggested, should it prove to be either corrupt
or incompetent, could remain in control only by the express acquiescence
of the electorate. Its corruption and incompetence could not be
concealed, and would inevitably entail serious consequences. On the
other hand, the results of any peculiar efficiency and political wisdom
would be equally conspicuous. Men of integrity, force, and ability would
be tempted to run for office by the stimulating opportunity offered for
effective achievement. Such a government would, consequently press into
its service whatever public-spirited and energetic men the community
possessed; and it would represent not an inferior or even an average
standard public opinion and ideas, but the highest standard which the
people could be made to accept. Provided only the voters themselves were
on the whole patriotic, well-intentioned, and loyal, it would be bound
to make not for a stagnant routine, but for a gradually higher level of
local political action.



The foregoing discussion of the means which may be taken to make
American local governments more alive to their responsibilities has been
confined to the department of legislation. The department of
administration is, however, almost equally important; and some attempt
must be made to associate with a reform of the local legislature a
reform of the local administration. The questions of administrative
efficiency and the best method of obtaining it demand special and
detailed consideration. In this case the conclusions reached will apply
as much to the central and municipal as they do to the state
administrations; but the whole matter of administrative efficiency can
be most conveniently discussed in relation to the proper organization of
a state government. The false ideas and practices which have caused so
much American administrative inefficiency originated in the states and
thence infected the central government. On the other hand, the reform of
these practices made its first conquests at Washington and thereafter
was languidly and indifferently taken over by many of the states. The
state politicians have never adopted it in good faith, because real
administrative efficiency would, by virtue of the means necessarily
taken to accomplish it, undermine the stability of the political
machine. The power of the machine can never be broken without a complete
reform of our local administrative systems; and the discussion of that
reform is more helpful in relation to the state than in relation to the
central government.

Civil service reform was the very first movement of the kind to make any
headway in American politics. Within a few years after the close of the
War it had waxed into an issue which the politicians could not ignore;
and while its first substantial triumph was postponed until late in the
seventies, it has, on the whole, been more completely accepted than any
important reforming idea. It has secured the energetic support of every
President during the last twenty-five years; it has received at all
events the verbal homage of the two national parties; and it can point
to affirmative legislation in the great majority of the states. It meets
at the present time with practically no open and influential opposition.
Nevertheless, the "merit system" has not met the expectations of its
most enthusiastic supporters. Abuses have been abolished wherever the
reform has been introduced, but the abolition of abuses has not made for
any marked increase of efficiency. The civil service is still very far
from being in a satisfactory condition either in the central, state, or
municipal offices. Moreover, the passage of reform laws has not had any
appreciable effect upon the vitality or the power of the professional
politician. The machine has, on the whole, increased rather than
diminished in power, during the past twenty-five years. Civil service
reform is no longer as vigorously opposed as it used to be, because it
is no longer feared. The politicians have found that in its ordinary
shape it really does not do them any essential harm. The consequence is
that the agitation has drifted to the rear of the American political
battle, and fails to excite either the enthusiasm, the enmity, or the
interest that it did fifteen years ago.

Its partial failure has been due to the fact that the reformers merely
attacked one of the symptoms of a disease which was more deeply rooted
and more virulent than they supposed. They were outraged by the
appointment of administrative officials solely as a reward for partisan
service and without reference to their qualifications for their official
duties; and two means were devised to strike at this abuse. Lower
administrative officials were protected in their positions by depriving
their superiors of the power of removing them except for cause; and it
was provided that new appointments should be made from lists of
candidates whose eligibility was guaranteed by their ability to pass
examinations in subjects connected with the work of the office. These
were undoubtedly steps in a better direction; but they have failed to be
effective, because the attempt to secure a more meritorious selection of
public servants was not applied to higher grades of the service. At the
head of every public office was a man who had been appointed or elected
chiefly for partisan reasons; who served only for a short time; who
could become familiar with the work of his office, if at all, only
slowly; and who, because of his desire to be surrounded by his own
henchmen, was the possible enemy of the permanent staff. The civil
service laws have been designed, consequently, to a very considerable
extent for the purpose of protecting the subordinates against their
chiefs; and that is scarcely to be conceived as a method of organizing
administrative employees helpful to administrative efficiency. The
chiefs were allowed comparatively little effective authority over their
subordinates, and subordinates could not be held to any effective
responsibility. A premium was placed upon ordinary routine work which
observed carefully all the official forms, but which was calculated with
equal care not to task its perpetrators.

The American civil service will never be really reformed by the sort of
civil service laws which have hitherto been passed--no matter how
faithfully those laws may be executed. The only way in which
administrative efficiency can be secured is by means of an organization
which makes a departmental chief absolutely responsible for energetic
work and economical administration in his office; and no such
responsibility can exist as long as his subordinates are independent of
him. He need not necessarily have the power to discharge his
subordinates, except with the consent of a Board of Inspectors; but he
should have the power to promote them to positions of greater
responsibility and income, or to degrade them to comparatively
insignificant positions. Efficiency cannot be secured in any other way,
because no executive official can be held accountable for good work
unless his control over his subordinates is effective. So far as the
existing civil service laws in city, state, and the United States fail
to bestow full responsibility, coupled with sufficient authority, upon
departmental chiefs, they should be altered; and their alteration should
be made part of any plan of constructive reform in the civil service.

The responsibility of departmental chiefs and their effective authority
over their subordinates necessarily imply changes in the current methods
of selecting these officials. The prevailing methods are unwise and
chaotic. In some cases they are appointed by the chief executive. In
other cases they are elected. But whether appointed or elected, they are
selected chiefly for partisan service. They hold office only for a few
years. They rarely have any particular qualification for their work.
They cannot be expected either to take very much interest in their
official duties or use their powers in an efficient manner. To give such
temporary officeholders a large measure of authority over their
subordinates would mean in the long run that such authority would be
used chiefly for political purposes. Administrative efficiency,
consequently, can only be secured by the adoption of a method of
selecting departmental chiefs which will tend to make them expert public
servants rather than politicians. They must be divorced from political
associations. They must be emancipated from political vicissitudes. The
success of their career must depend exclusively upon the excellence of
their departmental work.

As long as these public servants are elected, no such result can be
expected. The practice of electing the incumbents of subordinate
executive positions inevitably invites the evasion of responsibility and
the selection of the candidate chiefly for partisan service. When such a
man stands for renomination or reelection, his administrative efficiency
or inefficiency (unless the latter should chance to be particularly
flagrant) does not affect his chances. He is renominated in case he has
served his party well, or in case no one else who wants the job has in
the meantime served it better. He is reelected in case his party happens
to have kept public confidence. Departmental chiefs can be made
responsible for their work only by being subordinated to a chief
executive whose duty it is to keep his eye on his subordinates and who
is accountable to the people for the efficient conduct of all the
administrative offices. The former, consequently, must be selected by
appointment, they must be installed in office for an indefinite period,
and they must be subject to removal by the chief executive. Those are
terms upon which all private employees serve; and on no other terms will
equally efficient results be obtained from public officials.

Under a democratic political system there is, of course, no way of
absolutely guaranteeing that any method of administrative organization,
however excellent in itself, will accomplish the desired and the
desirable result. Administrative authority must at some point always
originate in an election. The election can delegate power only for a
limited period. At the end of the limited period another executive will
be chosen--possibly a man representing a wholly different political
policy. Such a man will want his immediate advisers to share his
political point of view; and it is always possible that in electing him
the voters will make a mistake and choose an incompetent and
irresponsible person. An incompetent or disloyal executive could
undoubtedly under such a system do much to disorganize the public
service; but what will you have? There can be no efficiency without
responsibility. There can be no responsibility without authority. The
authority and responsibility residing ultimately in the people must be
delegated; and it must not be emasculated in the process of delegation.
If it is abused, the people should at all events be able to fix the
offense and to punish the offender. At present our administration is
organized chiefly upon the principle that the executive shall not be
permitted to do much good for fear that he will do harm. It ought to be
organized on the principle that he shall have full power to do either
well or ill, but that if he does do ill, he will have no defense against
punishment. The principle is the same as it is in the case of
legislative responsibility. If under those conditions the voters should
persist in electing incompetent or corrupt executives, they would
deserve the sort of government they would get and would probably in the
end be deprived of their vote.

A system of local government, designed for concentrating power and
responsibility, might, consequently, be shaped along the following
general lines. Its core would be a chief executive, elected for a
comparatively long term, and subject to recall under certain defined
conditions. He would be surrounded by an executive council, similar to
the President's Cabinet, appointed by himself and consisting of a
Controller, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Commissioner of Public
Works, and the like. So far his position would not differ radically from
that of the President of the United States, except that he would be
subject to recall. But he would have the additional power of introducing
legislation into a legislative council and, in case his proposed
legislation were rejected or amended in an inacceptable manner, of
appealing to the electorate. The legislative council would be elected
from large districts and, if possible, by some cumulative system of
voting. They, also, might be subject to recall. They would have the
power, dependent on the governor's veto, of authorizing the
appropriation of public money and, also, of passing on certain minor
classes of legislation--closely associated with administrative
functions. But in relation to all legislation of substantial importance
express popular approval would be necessary. The chief executive should
possess the power of removing any administrative official in the employ
of the state and of appointing a successor. He would be expected to
choose an executive council who agreed with him in all essential matters
of public policy, just as the President is expected to appoint his
Cabinet. His several councilors would be executive officials,
responsible for particular departments of the public service; but they
would exercise their authority through permanent departmental
chiefs--just as the Secretary of War delegates much of his authority to
a chief of staff, or an English minister to a permanent under-secretary.
The system could offer no guarantee that the subordinate departmental
chiefs would be absolutely permanent; but at all events they would not
be changed at fixed periods or for irrelevant reasons. They would be
just as permanent or as transient as the good of the service demanded.
In so far, that is, as the system was carried out in good faith they
would be experts, absolutely the masters of the technical business of
the offices and of the abilities and services of their subordinates. The
weak point in such administrative organization is undoubtedly the
relation between the members of the governor's council and their chiefs
of staff; but there must be a weak link in any organization which seeks
to convert the changing views of public policy, dependent upon an
election, into responsible, efficient, and detailed administrative acts.
If the system were not accepted in good faith, if in the long run it
were not carried out by officials, who were disinterestedly and
intelligently working in the public interest, it would be bound to fail;
but so would any method of political organization. This particular plan
simply embodies the principle that the way to get good public service
out of men is to give them a sufficient chance.

Under the proposed system the only powers possessed by the state
executive, not now bestowed upon the President of the United States,
would consist in an express and an effective control over legislation.
It would be his duty to introduce legislation whenever it was in his
opinion desirable; and in case his bills were amended to death or
rejected, it would be his right to appeal to the people. He would, in
addition, appoint all state officials except the legislative council,
and perhaps the judges of the highest court. On the other hand, he would
be limited by the recall and he could not get any important legislative
measure on the statute books except after severe technical criticism,
and express popular consent. He could accomplish nothing without the
support of public opinion; yet he could be held absolutely responsible
for the good government of the state. A demagogue elected to a position
of such power and responsibility might do a great deal of harm; but if a
democratic political body cannot distinguish between the leadership of
able and disinterested men and self-seeking charlatans, the loss and
perhaps the suffering, resulting from their indiscriminate blindness,
would constitute a desirable means of political education,--particularly
when the demagogue, as in the case under consideration, could not really
damage the foundations of the state. And the charlatan or the
incompetent could be sent into retreat just as soon as exposed. The
danger not only has a salutary aspect, but it seems a small price to pay
for the chance, thereby afforded, for really efficient and responsible
government. The chief executive, when supported by public opinion, would
become a veritable "Boss"; and he would inevitably be the sworn enemy of
unofficial "Bosses" who now dominate local politics. He would have the
power to purify American local politics, and this power he would be
obliged to use. The logic of his whole position would convert him into
an enemy of the machine, in so far as the machine was using any
governmental function for private, special, or partisan purposes. The
real "Boss" would destroy the sham "Bosses"; and no other means, as yet
suggested, will, I believe, be sufficient to accomplish such a result.

After the creation of such a system of local government the power of the
professional politician would not last a year longer than the people
wanted it to last. The governor would control the distribution of all
those fruits of the administrative and legislative system upon which the
machine has lived. There could be no trafficking in offices, in public
contracts, or in legislation; and the man who wished to serve the state
unofficially would have to do so from disinterested motives. Moreover,
the professional politician could not only be destroyed, but he would
not be needed. At present he is needed, because of the prodigious amount
of business entailed by the multiplicity of elective officials. Somebody
must take charge of this political detail; and it has, as we have
already remarked, drifted into the hands of specialists. These
specialists cannot be expected to serve for nothing. Their effort to
convert their work into a means of support is the source of the greater
part of the petty American political corruption; and such corruption
will persist as long as any real need exists for the men who live upon
it. The simplest way to dispense with the professional politician is to
dispense with the service he performs. Reduce the number of elective
officials. Under the proposed method of organization the number of
elections and the number of men to be elected would be comparatively
few. The voter would cast his ballot only for his local selectmen or
commissioners, a governor, one or more legislative councilmen, the
justices of the state court of appeals, and his Federal congressman and
executive. The professional politician would be left without a
profession. He would have to pass on his power to men who would be
officially designated to rule the people for a limited period, and who
could not escape full responsibility for their public performances.

I have said that no less drastic plan of institutional reorganization
will be sufficient to accomplish the proposed result; and a brief
justification must be afforded for this statement. It was expected, for
instance, that the secret Australian ballot would do much to undermine
the power of the professional politician. He would be prevented thereby
from controlling his followers and, in case of electoral trades, from,
"delivering the goods." Well! the Australian ballot has been adopted
more or less completely in the majority of the states; and it has
undoubtedly made open electoral corruption more difficult and less
common than it once was. But it has not diminished the personal and
partisan allegiance on which the power of the local "Boss" is based; and
it has done the professional politician as little serious harm as have
the civil service laws. Neither can it be considered an ideal method of
balloting for the citizens of a free democracy. Independent voting and
the splitting of tickets is essential to a wholesome expression of
public opinion; but in so far as such independence has to be purchased
by secrecy its ultimate value may be doubted. American politics will
never be "purified" or its general standards improved by an independence
which is afraid to come out into the open; and it is curious that with
all the current talk about the wholesome effects of "publicity" the
reformed ballot sends a voter sneaking into a closet in order to perform
his primary political duty. If American voters are more independent than
they used to be, it is not because they have been protected by the state
against the penalties of independence, but because they have been
aroused to more independent thought and action by the intrusion and the
discussion of momentous issues. In the long run that vote which is
really useful and significant is the vote cast in the open with a full
sense of conviction and responsibility.

Another popular reforming device which belongs to the same class and
which will fail to accomplish the expected result is the system of
direct primaries. It may well be that this device will in the long run
merely emphasize the evil which it is intended to abate. It will tend to
perpetuate the power of the professional politician by making his
services still more necessary. Under it the number of elections will be
very much increased, and the amount of political business to be
transacted will grow in the same proportion. In one way or another the
professional politician will transact this business; and in one way or
another he will make it pay. Under a system of direct primaries the
machine could not prevent the nomination of the popular candidate
whenever public opinion was aroused; so it is with the existing system.
But whenever public interest flags,--and it is bound to flag under such
an absurd multiplication of elections and under such a complication of
electoral machinery,--the politicians can easily nominate their own
candidates. Up to date no method has been devised which would prevent
them from using their personal followers in the primary elections of
both parties; and no such method can be devised without enforcing some
comparatively fixed distinction between a Republican and a Democrat, and
thus increasing the difficulties of independent voting. In case the
number of elective officials were decreased, as has been proposed above,
there would be fewer objections to the direct primary. Under the
suggested method of organization each election would become of such
importance that public opinion would be awakened and would be likely to
obtain effective expression; and the balloting for the party candidates
would arouse as much interest, particularly in the case of the dominant
party, as the final election itself. In fact, the danger would be under
such circumstances that the primaries would arouse too much interest,
and that the parties would become divided into embittered and
unscrupulous factions. Genuinely patriotic and national parties may
exist; but a genuinely patriotic faction within a party would be a
plant of much rarer growth. From every point of view, consequently, the
direct primary has its doubtful aspects. The device is becoming so
popular that it will probably prevail; and as it prevails, it may have
the indirect beneficial result of diminishing the number of regular
elections; but at bottom it is a clumsy and mechanical device for the
selection of party candidates. It is merely one of the many means
generated by American political practice for cheapening the ballot. The
way to make votes important and effective is not to increase but to
diminish their number.

A democracy has no interest in making good government complicated,
difficult, and costly. It has, on the contrary, every interest in so
simplifying its machinery that only decisive decisions and choices are
submitted to the voter. Every attempt should be made to arouse his
interest and to turn his public spirit to account; and for that reason
it should not be fatigued by excessive demands and confused by
complicated decisions. The cost of government in time, ability,
training, and energy should fall not upon the followers but upon the
leaders; and the latter should have every opportunity to make the
expenditure pay. Such is the object of the foregoing suggestions towards
reconstruction which, radical as they may seem, have been suggested
chiefly by an examination of the practical conditions of contemporary
reform. Only by the adoption of some such plan can the reformers become
something better than perpetual moral protestants who are fighting a
battle in which a victory may be less fruitful than defeat. As it is,
they are usually flourishing in the eyes of the American people a flask
of virtue which, when it is uncorked, proves to be filled with oaths of
office. The reformers must put strong wine into their bottle. They must
make office-holding worth while by giving to the officeholders the power
of effecting substantial public benefits.



The questions relating to the kind of reforms which these reorganized
state governments might and should attempt to bring about need not be
considered in any detail. In the case of the states institutional
reconstruction is necessarily prior to social reconstruction; and the
objects for which their improved powers can be best used need at present
only be indicated. These objects include, in fact, practically all the
primary benefits which a state ought to confer upon its citizens; and it
is because the states have so largely failed to confer these primary
benefits that the reconstruction necessarily assumes a radical
complexion. It is absurd to discuss American local governments as agents
of individual and social amelioration until they begin to meet their
most essential and ordinary responsibilities in a more satisfactory

Take, for instance, the most essential function of all--that of
maintaining order. A state government which could not escape and had the
courage to meet its responsibilities would necessarily demand from the
people a police force which was really capable of keeping the peace. It
could not afford to rely upon local "posses" and the militia. It would
need a state constabulary, subject to its control and numerous enough
for all ordinary emergencies. Such bodies of state police, efficiently
used, could not only prevent the lawlessness which frequently
accompanies strikes, but it could gradually stamp out lynch law.
Lynching, which is the product of excited local feeling, will never be
stopped by the sheriffs, because they are afraid of local public
opinion. It will never be stopped by the militia, because the militia is
slow to arrive and is frequently undisciplined. But it can be stopped by
a well-trained and well-disciplined state constabulary, which can be
quickly concentrated, and which would be independent of merely local
public opinion. When other states besides Pennsylvania establish
constabularies, it will be an indication that they really want to keep
order; and when the Southern states in particular organize forces of
this kind, there will be reason to believe that they really desire to do
justice to the negro criminal and remove one of the ugliest aspects of
the race question.

A well-informed state government would also necessarily recognize the
intimate connection between the prevention of lynching and the speedy
and certain administration of criminal justice. It would seek not merely
to stamp out disorder, but to anticipate it by doing away with the
substantial injustice wrought by the procedure of the great majority of
American criminal courts. It is unnecessary to dwell at any length upon
the work of reorganization which would confront a responsible state
government in relation to the punishment and the prevention of crime,
because public opinion is becoming aroused to the dangers which threaten
American society from the escape of criminals and the lax and sluggish
administration of the criminal laws. But the remark must be made that
our existing methods of framing, executing, and expounding criminal laws
are merely an illustration of the extent to which the state governments,
under the influence of traditional legal and political preconceptions,
have subordinated the collective social interest to that of the possible
individual criminal; and no thorough-going reform will be possible until
these traditional preconceptions have themselves been abandoned, and a
system substituted which makes the state the efficient friend of the
collective public interest and the selected individual.

Assuming, then, that they use their increased powers more effectually
for the primary duty of keeping order, and administering civil and
criminal justice, reforming state governments could proceed to many
additional tasks. They could redeem very much better than they do their
responsibility to their wards--the insane and the convicted criminals.
At the present time some states have fairly satisfactory penitentiaries,
reformatories, and insane asylums, while other states have utterly
unsatisfactory ones; but in all the states both the machinery and the
management are capable of considerable improvement. The steady increase
both of crime and insanity is demanding the most serious consideration
of the whole problem presented by social dereliction--particularly for
the purpose of separating out those criminals and feeble-minded people
who are capable of being restored to the class of useful citizens. In
fact a really regenerated state government might even consider the
possible means of preventing crime and insanity. It might have the
hardihood to inquire whether the institution of marriage, which would
remain under exclusive state protection, does not in its existing form
have something to do with the prevalence and increase of insanity and
crime; and it might conceivably reach the conclusion that the enforced
celibacy of hereditary criminals and incipient lunatics would make for
individual and social improvement even more than would a maximum
passenger fare on the railroads of two cents a mile. Moreover, while
their eyes were turned to our American success in increasing the social
as well as the economic output, they might pause a moment to consider
the marvelous increase of divorces. They might reflect whether this
increase, like that of the criminals and the insane, did not afford a
possible subject of legislation, but I doubt whether even a regenerate
state government would reach any very quick or satisfactory conclusions
in respect to this matter. Public opinion does not appear to have
decided whether the social fact of divorce abounding is to be considered
as an abuse or as a fulfillment of the existing institution of marriage.

Neither need the pernicious activity of such a government cease, after
it has succeeded in radically improving its treatment of the criminal
and its lunatics, and in possibly doing something to make the American
home less precarious, if less cheerful. It might then turn its attention
to the organization of labor, in relation to which, as we shall see
presently, the states may have the opportunity for effective work. Or an
inquiry might be made as to whether the educational system of the
country, which should remain under exclusive state jurisdiction, is well
adapted to the extremely complicated purpose of endowing its various
pupils with the general and special training most helpful to the
creation of genuine individuals, useful public servants, and loyal and
contented citizens of their own states. In this matter of education the
state governments, particularly in the North, have shown abundant and
encouraging good will; but it is characteristic of their general
inefficiency that a good will has found its expression in a
comparatively bad way.

It would serve no good purpose to push any farther the list of excellent
objects to which the state governments might devote their liberated and
liberalized energies. We need only add that they would then be capable,
not merely of more efficient separate action, but also of far more
profitable cooeperation. In case the states were emancipated from their
existing powerless subjection to individual, special, and parochial
interests, the advantages of a system of federated states would be
immediately raised to the limit. The various questions of social and
educational reform can only be advanced towards a better understanding
and perhaps a partial solution by a continual process of
experimentation--undertaken with the full appreciation that they were
tentative and would be pushed further or withdrawn according to the
nature of their results. Obviously a state government is a much better
political agency for the making of such experiments than is a government
whose errors would affect the population of the whole country. No better
machinery for the accomplishment of a progressive programme of social
reform could be advised than a collection of governments endowed with
the powers of an American state, and really desirous of advancing
particular social questions towards their solution. Such a system would
be flexible; it would provoke emulation; it would encourage initiative;
and it would take advantage of local ebullitions of courage and insight
and any peculiarly happy local collection of circumstances. Finally, if
in addition to the merits of a system of generous competition, it could
add those of occasional consultation and cooeperation, such as is implied
by the proposed "House of Governors," the organization for social reform
would leave little to be desired. The governors who would meet in
consultation would be the real political leaders of their several
states; and they should meet, not so much for the purpose of agreeing
upon any single group of reforming measures, as for the purpose of
comparing notes obtained under widely different conditions and as the
result of different legislative experiments. Just in so far as this
mixture of generous competition and candid cooeperation was seeking to
accomplish constructive social purposes, for which the powers of the
states, each within its geographical limits, were fully adequate, just
to that extent it could hardly fail to make headway in the direction of
social reform.

If the state governments are to reach their maximum usefulness in the
American political system, they must not only be self-denying in respect
to the central government, but generous in respect to their
creatures--the municipal corporations. There are certain business and
social questions of exclusively or chiefly local importance which should
be left to the municipal governments; and it is as characteristic of the
unregenerate state governments of the past and the present that they
have interfered where they ought not to interfere as that they have not
interfered where they had an excellent opportunity for effective action.
A politically regenerated state would guarantee in its constitution a
much larger measure of home rule to the cities than they now enjoy,
while at the same time the reformed legislative authority would endeavor
to secure the edifying exercise of these larger powers, not by an
embarrassing system of supervision, but by the concentration of the
administrative power and responsibility of the municipal authorities. I
shall not attempt to define in detail how far the measure of home rule
should go; but it may be said in general that the functions delegated or
preserved should so far as possible be completely delegated or
preserved. This rule cannot be rigidly applied to such essential
functions of the state governments as the preservation of order and the
system of education. The delegation of certain police powers and a
certain control over local schools is considered at present both
convenient and necessary, although in the course of time such may no
longer be the case; but if these essential functions are delegated, the
state should retain a certain supervision over the manner of their
exercise. On the other hand, the municipality as an economic and
business organism should be left pretty much to its own devices; and it
is not too much to say that the state should not interfere in these
matters at all, except under the rarest and most exceptional conditions.

The reasons for municipal home rule in all economic and business
questions are sufficiently obvious. A state is a political and legal
body; and as a political and legal body it cannot escape its appropriate
political and social responsibilities. But a state has in the great
majority of cases no meaning at all as a center of economic organization
and direction. The business carried on within state limits is either
essentially related by competition to the national economic system,--or
else it is essentially municipal in its scope and meaning. Of course,
such a statement is not strictly true. The states have certain essential
economic duties in respect to the conservation and development of
agricultural resources and methods and to the construction and
maintenance of a comprehensive system of highways. But these legitimate
economic responsibilities are not very numerous or very onerous compared
to those which should be left to the central government on the one hand
or to the municipal governments on the other. A municipality is a living
center of economic activity--a genuine case of essentially local
economic interests. To be sure, the greater part of the manufacturing or
commercial business transacted in a city belongs undubitably to the
national economic system; but there is a minor part which is exclusively
local. Public service corporations which control franchises in cities do
not enter into inter-state commerce at all--except in those unusual
cases (as in New York) where certain parts of the economic municipal
body are situated in another state. They should be subject,
consequently, to municipal jurisdiction and only that. The city alone
has anything really important to gain or to lose from their proper or
improper treatment; and its legal responsibility should be as complete
as its economic localization is real.

There is no need of discussing in any detail the way in which a
municipal government which does enjoy the advantage of home rule and an
efficient organization can contribute to the work of national economic
and social reconstruction. Public opinion is tending to accept much more
advanced ideas in this field of municipal reform than it is in any other
part of the political battle-field. Experiments are already being tried,
looking in the direction of an increasingly responsible municipal
organization, and an increasing assumption by the city of economic and
social functions. Numerous books are being written on various aspects of
the movement, which is showing the utmost vitality and is constantly
making progress in the right direction. In all probability, the American
city will become in the near future the most fruitful field for
economically and socially constructive experimentation; and the effect
of the example set therein will have a beneficially reactive effect upon
both state and Federal politics. The benefits which the city governments
can slowly accomplish within their own jurisdiction are considerable.
They do not, indeed, constitute the exclusive "Hope of Democracy,"
because the ultimate democratic hope depends on the fulfillment of
national responsibilities; and they cannot deal effectively with certain
of the fundamental social questions. But by taking advantage of its
economic opportunities, the American city can gradually diminish the
economic stress within its own jurisdiction. It has unique chance of
appropriating for the local community those sources of economic value
which are created by the community, and it has an equally unique
opportunity of spending the money so obtained for the amelioration of
the sanitary, if not of the fundamental economic and social, condition
of the poorer people.

There is, finally, one fundamental national problem with which the state
governments, no matter to what extent they may be liberated and
invigorated, are wholly incompetent to deal. The regulation of commerce,
the control of corporations, and the still more radical questions
connected with the distribution of wealth and the prevention of
poverty--questions of this kind should be left exclusively to the
central government; or in case they are to any extent allowed to remain
under the jurisdiction of the states, they should exercise such
jurisdiction as the agents of the central government. The state
governments lack and must always lack the power and the independence
necessary to deal with this whole group of problems; and as long as they
remain preoccupied therewith, their effective energy and good intentions
will be diverted from the consideration of those aspects of political
and social reform with which they are peculiarly competent to deal. The
whole future prosperity and persistence of the American Federal system
is bound up in the progressive solution of this group of problems; and
if it is left to the conflicting jurisdictions of the central and local
governments, the American democracy will have to abandon in this respect
the idea of seeking the realization of a really national policy.
Justification for these statements will be offered in the following



Any proposal to alter the responsibilities and powers now enjoyed by the
central and the state governments in respect to the control of
corporations and the distribution of wealth involves, of course, the
Federal rather than the state constitutions; and the amendment of the
former is both a more difficult and a more dangerous task than is the
amendment of the latter. A nation cannot afford to experiment with its
fundamental law as it may and must experiment with its local
institutions. As a matter of fact the Federal Constitution is very much
less in need of amendment than are those of the several states. It is on
the whole an admirable system of law and an efficient organ of
government; and in most respects it should be left to the ordinary
process of gradual amendment by legal construction until the American
people have advanced much farther towards the realization of a national
democratic policy. Eventually certain radical amendments will be
indispensable to the fulfillment of the American national purpose; but
except in one respect nothing of any essential importance is to be
gained at present by a modification of the Federal Constitution. This
exception is, however, of the utmost importance. For another generation
or two any solution of the problem of corporation control, and of all
the other critical problems connected therewith, will be complicated,
confused, and delayed by the inter-state commerce clause, and by the
impossibility, under that clause, of the exercise of any really
effective responsibility and power by the central government. The
distinction between domestic and inter-state commerce which is implied
by the Constitutional distribution of powers is a distinction of
insignificant economic or industrial importance; and its necessary legal
enforcement makes the carrying out of an efficient national industrial
policy almost impossible.

Under the inter-state commerce clause, a corporation conducting, as all
large companies do, both a state and an inter-state business, is
subject to several supplementary jurisdictions. It is subject, of
course, primarily to the laws of the state under which it is organized,
and to the laws of the same state regulating its own particular form of
industrial operation. It is subject, also, to any conditions which the
legislatures of other states may wish to impose upon its business,--in
so far as that business is transacted within their jurisdictions.
Finally, it is subject to any regulation which the central government
may impose upon its inter-state transactions. From the standpoint of
legal supervision, consequently, the affairs of such a corporation are
divided into a series of compartments, each compartment being determined
by certain arbitrary geographical lines--lines which do not, like the
boundaries of a municipality, correspond to any significant economic
division. As long as such a method of supervision endures, no effective
regulation of commerce or industry is possible. A corporation is not a
commercial Pooh-Bah, divided into unrelated sections. It is an
industrial and commercial individual. The business which it transacts in
one state is vitally related to the business which it transacts in other
states; and even in those rare cases of the restriction of a business to
the limits of a single state, the purchasing and selling made in its
interest necessarily compete with inter-state transactions in the same
products. Thus the Constitutional distinction between state and
inter-state commerce is irrelevant to the real facts of American
industry and trade.

In the past the large corporations have, on the whole, rather preferred
state to centralized regulation, because of the necessary inefficiency
of the former. Inter-state railroad companies usually exercised a
dominant influence in those states under the laws of which they had
incorporated; and this influence was so beneficial to them that they
were quite willing for the sake of preserving it to subsidize the
political machine and pay a certain amount of blackmail. In this way the
Pennsylvania Railroad Company exercised a dominant influence in the
politics of Pennsylvania and New Jersey; the New York Central was not
afraid of anything that could happen at Albany; the Boston and Maine
pretty well controlled the legislation of the state of New Hampshire;
and the Southern Pacific had its own will in California. Probably in
these and other instances the railroads acquired their political
influence primarily for purposes of protection. It was the cheapest form
of blackmail they could pay to the professional politicians; and in this
respect they differed from the public service corporations, which have
frequently been active agents of corruption in order to obtain public
franchises for less than their value. But once the railroads had
acquired their political influence, they naturally used it for their own
purposes. They arranged that the state railroad commissioners should be
their clerks, and that taxation should not press too heavily upon them.
They were big enough to control the public officials whose duty it was
to supervise them; and they were content with a situation which left
them free from embarrassing interference without being over-expensive.

The situation thereby created, however, was not only extremely
undesirable in the public interest, but it was at bottom extremely
dangerous to the railroads. These companies were constantly extending
their mileage, increasing their equipment, improving their terminals,
and enlarging their capital stock. Their operations covered many
different states, and their total investments ran far into the hundreds
of millions of dollars. In the meantime they remained subject to one or
several different political authorities whose jurisdiction extended over
only a portion of their line and a fraction of their business, but who
could none the less by unwise interference throw the whole system out of
gear, and compromise the earning power of many millions of dollars
invested in other states. Moreover, they could, if they chose, make all
this trouble with a comparative lack of responsibility, because only a
fraction of the ill effects of this foolish regulation would be felt
within the guilty state. As a matter of fact many railroads had
experiences of this kind with the Western states, and were obliged to
defend themselves against legislative and administrative dictation,
which if it did not amount to confiscation, always applied narrow and
rigid restrictive methods to a delicate and complicated economic
situation. Most of the large Eastern and some of the large Western
companies purchased immunity from such "supervision," and were well
content; but it was mere blindness on their part not to understand that
such a condition, with the ugly corruption it involved, could not
continue. The time was bound to come when an aroused public opinion
would undermine their "influence," and would retaliate by imposing upon
them restrictions of a most embarrassing and expensive character. In so
doing the leaders of a reformed and aroused public opinion might be
honestly seeking only legitimate regulation; but the more the state
authorities sought conscientiously to regulate the railroads the worse
the confusion they would create. The railroad could not escape some
restrictive supervision; neither were they obliged wholly to submit to
it on the part of any one state. The situation of a railroad running
through half a dozen states, and subject to the contradictory and
irresponsible orders of half a dozen legislatures or commissions might
well become intolerable.

Just this sort of thing has been recently happening. The state
authorities began to realize that their lax methods of railway
supervision were being used as an argument for increased Federal
interference. So the state governments arose in their might and began
furiously to "regulate" the railroads. Commissions were constituted or
re-constituted, and extremely drastic powers were granted to these
officials in respect to the operation of the railroads, the rates and
the fares charged, and their financial policies. Bills were passed
severely restricting the rights which companies had enjoyed of owning
the stock of connecting railroads. Many of the states sought to forbid
the companies from charging more than two cents a mile for passenger
fares. The issuing of passes except under severe restrictions was made
illegal. The railroad companies were suddenly confronted by a mass of
hostile and conflicting legislation which represented for the most part
an honest attempt to fulfill a neglected responsibility, but whose
effort on the whole merely embarrassed the operations of the roads, and
which in many instances failed to protect the real public interests
involved. Even when this legislation was not ignorantly and unwisely
conceived, and even when it was prepared by well-informed and
well-intentioned men, it was informed by contradictory ideas and a false
conception of the genuine abuses and their necessary remedies.
Consequently, a certain fraction of intelligent and disinterested public
opinion began soon to realize that the results of a vigorous attempt on
the part of the state governments to use their powers and to fulfill
their responsibilities in respect to the railroads were actually worse
and more dangerous to the public interest than was the previous neglect.
The neglect of the responsibility implied corruption, because it
provoked blackmail. The vigorous fulfillment of the responsibility
implied confusion, cross-purposes, and excessive severity, because the
powers of a single state were too great within its specific jurisdiction
and absolutely negligible beyond.

The railroad companies suffer more from this piecemeal and conflicting
regulation than do corporations engaged in manufacturing operations, not
only because they discharge a peculiarly public function, but because
their business, particularly in its rate-making aspect, suffers severely
from any division by arbitrary geographical lines. But all large
inter-state corporations are more or less in the same situation.
Corporations such as the Standard Oil Company and some of the large New
York life insurance companies are confronted by the alternative either
of going out of business in certain states, or of submitting to
restrictions which would compromise the efficiency of their whole
business policy. Doubtless they have not exhausted the evasive and
dilatory methods which have served them so well in the past; but little
by little the managers of these corporations are coming to realize that
they are losing more than they gain from subjection to so many
conflicting and supplementary jurisdictions. Little by little they are
coming to realize that the only way in which their businesses can obtain
a firm legal standing is by means of Federal recognition and exclusive
Federal regulation. They would like doubtless to continue to escape any
effective regulation at all; but without it they cannot obtain effective
recognition, and in the existing ferment of public opinion recognition
has become more important to them than regulation is dangerous.

Many important financiers and corporation lawyers are still bitterly
opposed to any effective centralized regulation, even if accompanied by
recognition; but such opposition is not merely inaccessible to the
lessons of experience, but is blinded by theoretical prejudice.
Doubtless the position of being, on the one hand, inefficiently
regulated by the state governments, and, on the other hand, of being
efficiently protected in all their essential rights by the Federal
courts--doubtless such a situation seems very attractive to men who
need a very free hand for the accomplishment of their business purposes;
but they should be able to understand that it would necessarily produce
endless friction. The states may well submit to the constant extension
of a protecting arm to corporations by the Federal courts, provided the
central government is accomplishing more efficiently than can any
combination of state governments the amount of supervision demanded by
the public interest. But if the Federal courts are to be constantly
invoked, in order to thwart the will of state legislatures and
commissions, and if at the same time the authority which protects either
neglects or is unable effectively to supervise, there is bound to be a
revival of anti-Federal feeling in its most dangerous form. Whatever the
corporations may suffer from the efficient exercise of Federal
regulative powers, they have far more to fear from the action of the
state governments--provided such action proceeds from an irresponsible
local radicalism embittered by being thwarted. The public opinion on
which the corporations must depend for fair treatment is national rather
than local; and just in as far as they can be made subject to exclusive
centralized jurisdiction, just to that extent is there a good chance of
their gradual incorporation into a nationalized economic and legal

The control of the central government over commerce and the corporations
should consequently be substituted for the control of the states rather
than added thereto; and this action should be taken not in order to
enfeeble American local governments, but to invigorate them. The
enjoyment by any public authority of a function which it cannot
efficiently perform is always a source of weakness rather than of
strength; and in this particular case it is a necessary source, not
merely of weakness, but of corruption. The less the state governments
have to do with private corporations whose income is greater than their
own, the better it will be for their morals, and the more effectively
are they likely to perform their own proper and legitimate functions.
Several generations may well elapse before the American public opinion
will learn this lesson; and even after it is well learned there will be
enormous and peculiar obstacles to be removed before they can turn their
instruction to good account. But in the end the American Federal
Constitution, like all the Federal Constitutions framed during the past
century, will have to dispense with the distinction between state and
inter-state commerce; and the national authority will prevail, not
because there is any peculiar virtue in the action of the central
government, but because there is a peculiar vice in asking the state
governments to regulate matters beyond their effective jurisdiction.



The central government in its policy toward the large corporations must
adopt one of two courses. Either it must discriminate in their favor or
it must discriminate against them. The third alternative--that of being
what is called "impartial"--has no real existence; and it is essential
that the illusory nature of a policy of impartiality should in the
beginning be clearly understood.

A policy of impartiality is supposed to consist in recognizing the
existence of the huge industrial and railroad organizations, while at
the same time forbidding them the enjoyment of any of those little
devices whereby they have obtained an unfair advantage over competitors.
It would consist, that is, of a policy of recognition tempered by
regulation; and a policy of this kind is the one favored by the majority
of conservative and fair-minded reformers. Such a policy has
unquestionably a great deal to recommend it as a transitional means of
dealing with the problem of corporate aggrandizement, but let there be
no mistake: it is not really a policy of strict neutrality between the
small and the large industrial agent. Any recognition of the large
corporations, any successful attempt to give them a legal standing as
authentic as their economic efficiency, amounts substantially to a
discrimination in their favor.

The whole official programme of regulation does not in any effective way
protect their competitors. Unquestionably these large corporations have
in the past thrived partly on illegal favors, such as rebates, which
would be prevented by the official programme of regulation; but at the
present time the advantage which they enjoy over their competitors is
independent of such practices. It depends upon their capture and
occupation of certain essential strategic positions in the economic
battle-field. It depends upon abundant capital, which enables it to take
advantage of every opportunity, and to buy and sell to the best
advantage. It depends upon the permanent appropriation of essential
supplies of raw materials, such as iron ore and coal, or of terminals in
large cities, which cannot now be duplicated. It depends upon
possibilities of economic industrial management and of the systematic
development of individual industrial ability and experience which exist
to a peculiar degree in large industrial enterprises. None of these
sources of economic efficiency will be in any way diminished by the
official programme of regulation. The corporations will still possess
substantially all of their existing advantages over their competitors,
while to these will be added the additional one of an unimpeachable
legal standing. Like the life insurance companies after the process of
purgation, they will be able largely to reduce expenses by abolishing
their departments of doubtful law.

Thus the recognition of the large corporation is equivalent to the
perpetuation of its existing advantages. It is not an explicit
discrimination against their smaller competitors, but it amounts to such
discrimination. If the small competitor is to be allowed a chance of
regaining his former economic importance, he must receive the active
assistance of the government. Its policy must become, not one of
recognition, but one of recognition under conditions which would impair
the efficiency of the large industrial organizations. Mr. William J.
Bryan's policy of a Federal license granted only under certain rigid
conditions as to size, is aimed precisely at the impairment of the
efficiency of the "trusts," and the consequent active discrimination in
favor of the small competitor; but the Roosevelt-Taft programme allows
the small competitor only such advantages as he is capable of earning
for himself; and it must be admitted that these advantages are,
particularly in certain dominant industries, not of a very encouraging

Nevertheless, at the last general election the American people cast a
decisively preponderant vote in favor of the Roosevelt-Taft programme;
and in so doing they showed their customary common sense. The huge
corporations have contributed to American economic efficiency. They
constitute an important step in the direction of the better
organization of industry and commerce. They have not, except in certain
exceptional cases, suppressed competition; but they have regulated it;
and it should be the effort of all civilized societies to substitute
cooeperative for competitive methods, wherever cooeperation can prove its
efficiency. Deliberately to undo this work of industrial and commercial
organization would constitute a logical application of the principle of
equal rights, but it would also constitute a step backward in the
process of economic and social advance. The process of industrial
organization should be allowed to work itself out. Whenever the smaller
competitor of the large corporation is unable to keep his head above
water with his own exertions, he should be allowed to drown. That the
smaller business man will entirely be displaced by the large corporation
is wholly improbable. There are certain industries and lines of trade in
which he will be able to hold his own; but where he is not able to hold
his own, there is no public interest promoted by any expensive attempt
to save his life.

The Sherman Anti-Trust Law constitutes precisely such an attempt to save
the life of the small competitor; and in case the Roosevelt-Taft policy
of recognition tempered by regulation is to prevail, the first step to
be taken is the repeal or the revision of that law. As long as it
remains on the statute books in its existing form, it constitutes an
announcement that the national interest of the American people demands
active discrimination in favor of the small industrial and commercial
agent. It denies the desirability of recognizing what has already been
accomplished in the way of industrial and commercial organization; and
according to prevalent interpretations, it makes the legal standing of
all large industrial combinations insecure--no matter how conducive to
economic efficiency their business policy may be.

Assuming, however, that the Sherman Anti-Trust Law can be repealed, and
that the Roosevelt-Taft policy of recognition tempered by regulation be
adopted, the question remains as to the manner in which such a policy
can best be carried out. Certain essential aspects of this question will
not be discussed in the present connection. The thorough carrying out of
a policy of recognition would demand a Federal incorporation act, under
which all corporations engaged in anything but an exclusively local
business would be obliged to organize; but, as we have already seen,
such an act would be unconstitutional as applied to many technically
domestic corporations, and it would probably be altogether
unconstitutional, except, perhaps, under limitations which would make it
valueless. It may be that some means will be found to evade these
Constitutional difficulties, or it may not be. These are matters on
which none but the best of Constitutional lawyers have any right to an
opinion. But in any event, I shall assume that the Federal government
can eventually find the legal means to make its policy of recognition
effective and to give the "trust" a definite legal standing. What sort
of regulation should supplement such emphatic recognition?

The purpose of such supervision is, of course, to prevent those abuses
which have in the past given the larger corporation an illegal or an
"unfair" advantage over its competitors; and the engine which American
legislatures, both Federal and state, are using for the purpose is the
commission. The attempt to define in a comprehensive statute just what
corporations may do, or must in the public interest be forbidden from
doing, is not being tried, because of the apparent impossibility of
providing in advance against every possible perversion of the public
interest in the interest of the private corporation. The responsibility
of the legislature for the protection of the public interest is
consequently delegated to a commission whose duties are partly
administrative and partly either legislative or judicial. The most
complete existing type of such a delegated power is not the Federal
Inter-state Commerce Commission, but the Public Service Commissions of
New York State; and in considering the meaning and probable effects of
this kind of supervision I shall consider only the completed type. A
Federal Inter-state Commerce Commission which was fully competent to
supervise all inter-state commerce and all commerce competing therewith
would necessarily possess powers analogous to those bestowed upon the
New York Public Service Commissions.

The powers bestowed upon those commissions are based upon the assumption
that the corporations under their jurisdiction cannot be trusted to take
any important decision in respect to their business without official
approval. All such acts must be known to the commission, and be either
expressly or tacitly approved, and the official body has the power of
ordering their wards to make any changes in their service or rates which
in the opinion of the commission are desirable in the public interest.
Thus the commission is required not only to approve all agreements among
corporations, all mergers, all issues of securities, but they are in
general responsible for the manner in which the corporations are
operated. The grant of such huge powers can be explained only on the
ground that the private interest of these corporations is radically
opposed to the interest of their patrons. Public opinion must have
decided that if left to themselves, the corporations will behave, on the
whole, in a manner inimical to the public welfare; and their business
must consequently be actually or tacitly "regulated" in every important

One may well hesitate wholly to condemn this government by commission,
because it is the first emphatic recognition in American political and
economic organization of a manifest public responsibility. In the past
the public interests involved in the growth of an extensive and highly
organized industrial system have been neither recognized nor promoted.
They have not been promoted by the states, partly because the states
neither wanted to do so, nor when they had the will, did they have the
power. They have not been promoted by the central government because
irresponsibility in relation to national economic interest was, the
tariff apart, supposed to be an attribute of the central authority. Any
legislation which seeks to promote this neglected public interest is
consequently to be welcomed; but the welcome accorded to these
commissions should not be very enthusiastic. It should not be any more
enthusiastic than the welcome accorded by the citizens of a kingdom to
the birth of a first child to the reigning monarchs,--a child who turns
out to be a girl, incapable under the law of inheriting the crown. A
female heir is under such circumstances merely the promise of better
things; and so these commissions are merely an evidence of good will and
the promise of something better. As initial experiments in the attempt
to redeem a neglected responsibility, they may be tolerated; but if they
are tolerated for too long, they may well work more harm than good.

The constructive idea behind a policy of the recognition of
semi-monopolistic corporations, is, of course, the idea that they can be
converted into economic agents which will make unequivocally for the
national economic interest; and it is natural that in the beginning
legislators should propose to accomplish this result by rigid and
comprehensive official supervision. But such supervision, while it would
eradicate many actual and possible abuses, would be just as likely to
damage the efficiency which has been no less characteristic of these
corporate operations. The only reason for recognizing the large
corporations as desirable economic institutions is just their supposed
economic efficiency; and if the means taken to regulate them impair that
efficiency, the government is merely adopting in a roundabout way a
policy of destruction. Now, hitherto, their efficiency has been partly
the product of the unusual freedom they have enjoyed. Unquestionably
they cannot continue to enjoy any similar freedom hereafter; but in
restricting it care should be taken not to destroy with the freedom the
essential condition of the efficiency. The essential condition of
efficiency is always concentration of responsibility; and the decisive
objection to government by commission as any sufficient solution of the
corporation problem is the implied substitution of a system of divided
for a system of concentrated responsibility.

This objection will seem fanciful and far-fetched to the enthusiastic
advocates of reform by commission. They like to believe that under a
system of administrative regulation abuses can be extirpated without any
diminution of the advantages hitherto enjoyed under private management;
but if such proves to be the case, American regulative commissions will
establish a wholly new record of official good management. Such
commissions, responsible as they are to an insistent and uninformed
public opinion, and possessed as they inevitably become of the peculiar
official point of view, inevitably drift or are driven to incessant,
vexatious, and finally harmful interference. The efficient conduct of
any complicated business, be it manufacturing, transportation, or
political, always involves the constant sacrifice of an occasional or a
local interest for the benefit of the economic operation of the whole
organization. But it is just such sacrifices of local and occasional to
a comprehensive interest which official commissions are not allowed by
public opinion to approve. Under their control rates will be made
chiefly for the benefit of clamorous local interests; and little by
little the economic organization of the country, so far as affected by
the action of commission government, would become the increasing rigid
victim of routine management. The flexibility and enterprise,
characteristic of our existing national economic organization, would
slowly disappear; and American industrial leaders would lose the
initiative and energy which has contributed so much to the efficiency of
the national economic system. Such a result would, of course, only take
place gradually; but it would none the less be the eventual result of
any complete adoption of such a method of supervision. The friends of
commission government who expect to discipline the big corporations
severely without injuring their efficiency are merely the victims of an
error as old as the human will. They "want it both ways." They want to
eat their cake and to have it. They want to obtain from a system of
minute official regulation and divided responsibility the same economic
results as have been obtained from a system of almost complete freedom
and absolutely concentrated responsibility.

The reader must not, however, misinterpret the real meaning of the
objection just made to corporation reform by means of commissions. I can
see no ground for necessarily opposing the granting of increased power
and responsibility to an official or a commission of officials, merely
because such officials are paid by the government rather than by a
private employer. But when such a grant is considered necessary, the
attempt should be to make the opportunity for good work comprehensive
and commensurate with the responsibility. The sort of officialism of
which the excavations at Panama or the reclamation service is a sample
has as much chance of being efficient under suitable conditions as has
the work of a private corporation. The government assumes complete
charge of a job, and pushes it to a successful or unsuccessful
conclusion, according to the extent with which its tradition or
organization enables it to perform efficient work. Moreover, there is a
certain kind of official supervision of a private business which does
not bring with it any divided responsibility. Perhaps the best
illustration thereof is the regulation to which the national banks are
obliged to submit. In this case the bank examiners and the Controller do
not interfere in the management of the bank, except when the management
is violating certain conditions of safe banking--which have been
carefully defined in the statute. So long as the banks obey the law,
they need have no fear of the Treasury Department. But in commission
government the official authority, in a sense, both makes and
administers the law. The commission is empowered to use its own
discretion about many matters, such as rates, service, equipment, and
the like, in relation to which the law places the corporation absolutely
in its hands. Such official interference is of a kind which can hardly
fail in the long run to go wrong. It is based on a false principle, and
interferes with individual liberty, not necessarily in an unjustifiable
way, but in a way that can hardly be liberating in spirit or
constructive in result.

The need for regulation should not be made the excuse for bestowing upon
officials a responsibility which they cannot in the long run properly
redeem. In so far as the functions of such commissions are really
regulative, like the functions of the bank examiners, they may for the
present perform a useful public service. These commissions should be
constituted partly as bureaus of information and publicity, and partly
as an administrative agency to secure the effective enforcement of the
law. In case the Sherman Anti-Trust Law were repealed, the law
substituted therefor should define the kind of combination among
corporations and the kind of agreements among railroads which were
permissible, and the commission should be empowered to apply the law to
any particular consolidation or contract. Similar provision should be
made in respect to railroad mergers, and the purchases by one railroad
of the stock of another. The purposes for which new securities might be
legitimately issued should also be defined in the statute, and the
commission allowed merely to enforce the definitions. Common carriers
should be obliged, as at present, to place on record their schedules of
rates, and when a special or a new rate was made, notification should be
required to the commission, together with a statement of reasons.
Finally the commission should have the completest possible power of
investigating any aspect of railway and corporation management or
finance the knowledge of which might be useful to Congress. The
unflinching use of powers, vaguely sketched above, would be sufficient
to prevent mere abuses, and they could be granted without making any
body of officials personally responsible for any of the essential
details of corporation management.

If the commission is granted the power to promulgate rates, to control
the service granted to the public, or to order the purchase of new
equipment, it has become more than a regulative official body. It has
become responsible for the business management of the corporation
committed to its charge; and again it must be asserted that mixed
control of this kind is bound to take the energy and initiative out of
such business organizations. Neither has any necessity for reducing
public service corporations to the level of industrial minors been
sufficiently demonstrated. In the matter of service and rates the
interest of a common carrier is not at bottom and in the long run
antagonistic to the interest of its patrons. The fundamental interest of
a common carrier is to develop traffic, and this interest coincides with
the interest in general of the communities it serves. This interest can
best be satisfied by allowing the carrier freedom in the making of its
schedules--subject only to review in particular cases. Special instances
may always exist of unnecessarily high or excessively discriminatory
rates; and provisions should be made for the consideration of such
cases, perhaps, by some court specially organized for the purpose; but
the assumption should be, on the whole, that the matter of rates and
service can be left to the interest of the corporation itself. In no
other way can the American economic system retain that flexibility with
which its past efficiency has been associated. In no other way can the
policy of these corporations continue to be, as it has so often been in
the past, in an economic sense genuinely constructive. This flexibility
frequently requires readjustments in the conditions of local industry
which cause grave losses to individuals or even communities; but it is
just such readjustments which are necessary to continued economic
efficiency; and it is just such readjustments which would tend to be
prevented by an official rate-making authority. An official rate-making
power would necessarily prefer certain rigid rules, favorable to the
existing distribution of population and business. Every tendency to a
new and more efficient distribution of trade would be checked, because
of its unfairness to those who suffer from it. Thus the American
industrial system would gradually become petrified, and the national
organization of American industry would be sacrificed for the benefit of
an indiscriminate collection of local interests.

If the interest of a corporation is so essentially hostile to the public
interest as to require the sort of official supervision provided by the
New York Public Service Commission Law, the logical inference therefrom
is not a system of semi-official and semi-private management, but a
system of exclusively public management. The logical inference therefrom
is public ownership, if not actual public operation. Public ownership is
not open to the same theoretical objections as is government by
commission. It is not a system of divided responsibility. Political
conditions and the organization of the American civil service being what
they are, the attempt of the authorities to assume such a responsibility
might not be very successful; but the fault would in that case reside in
the general political and administrative organization. The community
could not redeem the particular responsibility of owning and operating a
railroad, because it was not organized for the really efficient conduct
of any practical business. The rejection of a system of divided personal
responsibility between public and private officials does not
consequently bring with it necessarily the rejection of a system of
public ownership, if not public operation; and if it can be demonstrated
in the case of any particular class of corporations that its interest
has become in any essential respect hostile to the public interest, a
constructive industrial policy demands, not a partial, but a much more
complete, shifting of the responsibility.

That cases exist in which public ownership can be justified on the
foregoing grounds, I do not doubt; but before coming to the
consideration of such cases it must be remarked that this new phase of
the discussion postulates the existence of hitherto neglected conditions
and objects of a constructive industrial policy. Such a policy started
with the decision, which may be called the official decision, of the
American electorate, to recognize the existing corporate economic
organization; and we have been inquiring into the implications of this
decision. Those implications include, according to the results of the
foregoing discussion, not only a repeal of the Sherman Anti-Trust Law,
but the tempering of the recognition with certain statutory regulations.
It by no means follows that such regulation satisfies all the objects of
a constructive national economic policy. In fact it does not satisfy the
needs of a national economic policy at all, just in so far as such a
policy is concerned not merely with the organization of industry, but
with the distribution of wealth. But inasmuch as the decision has
already been reached in preceding chapters that the national interest of
a democratic state is essentially concerned with the distribution of
wealth, the corporation problem must be considered quite as much in its
relation to the social problem as to the problem of economic efficiency.

The American corporation problem will never be understood in its proper
relations and full consequences until it is conceived as a sort of an
advanced attack on the breastworks of our national economic system by
this essential problem of the distribution of wealth. The current
experiments in the direction of corporate "regulation" are prompted by a
curious mixture of divergent motives. They endeavor to evade a
fundamental responsibility by meeting a superficial one. They endeavor
to solve the corporation problem merely by eradicating abuses, the
implication being that as soon as the abuses are supervised out of
existence, the old harmony between public and private interest in the
American economic system will be restored, and no more "socialistic"
legislation will be required. But the extent to which this very
regulation is being carried betrays the futility of the expectation. And
as we have seen, the intention of the industrial reformers is to
introduce public management into the heart of the American industrial
system; that is, into the operation of railroads and public service
corporations, and in this way to bring about by incessant official
interference that harmony between public and private interest which must
be the object of a national economic system. But this proposed remedy is
simply one more way of shirking the ultimate problem; and it is the
logical consequence of the persistent misinterpretation of our
unwholesome economic inequalities as the result merely of the abuse,
instead of the legal use, of the opportunities provided by the existing
economic system.

An economic organization framed in the national interest would conform
to the same principles as a political organization framed in the
national interest. It would stimulate the peculiarly efficient
individual by offering him opportunities for work commensurate with his
abilities and training. It would grant him these opportunities under
conditions which would tend to bring about their responsible use. And it
would seek to make the results promote the general economic welfare. The
peculiar advantage of the organization of American industry which has
gradually been wrought during the past fifty years is precisely the
opportunity which it has offered to men of exceptional ability to
perform really constructive economic work. The public interest has
nothing to gain from the mutilation or the destruction of these
nationalized economic institutions. It should seek, on the contrary, to
preserve them, just in so far as they continue to remain efficient; but
it should at the same time seek the better distribution of the fruits of
this efficiency. The great objection to the type of regulation
constituted by the New York Public Service Commission Law is that it
tends to deprive the peculiarly capable industrial manager of any
sufficient opportunity to turn his abilities and experience to good
account. It places him under the tutelage of public officials,
responsible to a public opinion which has not yet been sufficiently
nationalized in spirit or in purpose, and in case this tutelage fails of
its object (as it assuredly will) the responsibility for the failure
will be divided. The corporation manager will blame the commissions for
vexatious, blundering, and disheartening interference. The commissions
will blame the corporation manager for lack of cordial cooeperation. The
result will be either the abandonment of the experiment or the
substitution of some degree of public ownership. But in either event the
constructive economic work of the past two generations will be in some
measure undone; and the American economic advance will be to that extent
retarded. Such obnoxious regulation has been not unjustly compared to
the attempt to discipline a somewhat too vivacious bull by the simple
process of castration. For it must be substituted an economic policy
which will secure to the nation, and the individual the opportunities
and the benefits of the existing organization, while at the same time
seeking the diffusion of those benefits over a larger social area.



The only sound point of departure for a national economic policy is, as
we have seen, the acceptance by the state of certain of the results of
corporate industrial organization. Such state recognition is equivalent
to discrimination in their favor, because it leaves them in possession
of those fundamental economic advantages, dependent on terminals, large
capital, and natural resources, which place them beyond effective
competition; and the state has good reason to suffer this
discrimination, because a wise government can always make more social
capital out of a cooeperative industrial organization than it can out of
an extremely competitive one.

It is extremely improbable that, even when officially recognized in this
way, the process of corporate combination would go beyond a certain
point. It might result in a condition similar to that which now prevails
in the steel industry or that of sugar refining; but it should be added
that in industries organized to that extent there is not very much
competition in prices. Prices are usually regulated by agreement among
the leading producers; and competition among the several producers turns
upon quickness of delivery and the quality of the service or product.
Whether or not this restriction of competition works badly depends
usually upon the enlightened shrewdness with which the schedule of rates
and prices is fixed. A corporation management which was thoroughly alive
to its own interest would endeavor to arrange a scale of prices, which,
while affording a sufficient profit, would encourage the increased use
of the product, and that is precisely the policy which has been adopted
by the best managed American railroad and industrial corporations. But
it must always be kept in mind that, in the absence of a certain amount
of competition, such a policy cannot be taken wholly for granted. A
short-sighted management may prefer to reap large profits for a short
time and at the expense of the increased use of its product or service.
Moreover, the margin between the cost of production and the particular
price at which the product or service can be sold consistent with its
largely increasing use may enable the producer to gather enormous
profits; and such profits may not stimulate competition to any
effective extent, precisely because they depend upon advantages in
production which cannot be duplicated. No state desirous of promoting
the economic welfare of its citizens can remain indifferent to the
chance thus afforded of earnings disproportionately large to the
economic service actually rendered.

In dealing with this question of possibly excessive profits under such a
method of economic organization, the state has many resources at its
disposal besides the most obvious one of incessant official interference
with the essentials of corporation management. Of these the most useful
consists unquestionably in its power of taxation. It can constitute a
system of taxation, in respect to the semi-monopolistic corporations,
which would deprive them of the fruits of an excessively large margin
between the cost of production and the price at which the product or
service could be increasingly sold. Net profits could be taxed at a rate
which was graduated to the percentage paid; and beyond a certain point
the tax should amount to much the larger fraction of the profits. In
this way a semi-monopolistic corporation would not have any interest in
seeking profits beyond a certain percentage. A condition would be
established which, while it would not deprive the managers of a
corporation of full responsibility for the conduct of its business,
would give them an additional inducement always to work for the
permanent improvement of the economic relation of the corporation to the
community. They would have no interest in preferring large but insecure
net earnings to smaller ones, founded on a thoroughly satisfactory
service, a low schedule of prices, and the constantly increasing
efficiency of the plant and organization of the company.

The objection will, no doubt, be immediately urged that a system of this
kind would prevent any improvement of service from going beyond a
certain point, just because it would cease to be profitable beyond a
certain point. But such an objection would not be valid, provided the
scale of taxation were properly graduated. I shall not attempt to define
any precise scale which would serve the purpose because the possible
adoption of such a plan is still too remote; but the state should, in
return for the protection it extends to these semi-monopolistic
corporations, take a certain percentage of all profits, and, while this
percentage should increase until it might at a certain level reach as
much as one half or three quarters, it should not become larger than
three quarters--except in the case of a corporation earning, say, more
than 20 per cent on its capital. To be sure the establishment even of
such a level would conceivably destroy the interested motive for
increased efficiency at a certain point, but such a point could hardly
be reached except in the case of companies whose monopoly was almost

The foregoing plan, however, is not suggested as a final and entirely
satisfactory method of incorporating semi-monopolistic business
organizations into the economic system of a nationalizing democracy. I
do not believe that any formula can be framed which will by the magic of
some chemical process convert a purely selfish economic motive into an
unqualified public economic benefit. But some such plan as that proposed
above may enable an industrial democracy to get over the period of
transition between the partial and the complete adaptation of these
companies to their place in a system of national economy. They can never
be completely incorporated so long as the interest of their owners is
different from that of the community as a whole, but in the meantime
they can be encouraged to grow and perhaps to become more efficient,
while at the same time they can be prevented from becoming a source of
undesirable or dangerous individual economic inequalities; and I do not
believe that such a transitional system of automatically regulated
recognition would be open to the same objections as would a system of
incessant official interference. In so far, indeed, as the constructive
industrial leader is actuated merely by the motive of amassing more
millions than can be of any possible use to himself or his children--in
so far as such is the case, the inducement to American industrial
organization on a national scale would be impaired. But if an economic
democracy can purchase efficient industrial organization on a huge scale
only at the price of this class of fortunes, then it must be content
with a lower order of efficiency, and American economic statesmanship
has every reason to reject such an alternative until there is no help
for it. The best type of American millionaire seems always to have had
as much interest in the work and in the game as in its prodigious
rewards; and much of his work has always been done for him by employees
who, while they were paid liberally, did not need the inducement of more
money than they could wholesomely spend in return, for service of the
highest efficiency.

In any event the plan of an automatically regulated recognition of
semi-monopolistic corporations would be intended only as a transitional
measure. Its object would be to give these somewhat novel industrial
agents a more prolonged and thorough test than any they have yet
received. If they survived for some generations and increased in
efficiency and strength, it could only be because the advantages they
enjoyed in the way of natural resources, abundant capital, organization,
terminals, and responsible management were decisive and permanent; and
in that case the responsibility of the state could not be limited to
their automatic regulation and partial assimilation. A policy must be
adopted of converting them into express economic agents of the whole
community, and of gradually appropriating for the benefit of the
community the substantial economic advantages which these corporations
had succeeded in acquiring. Just in so far, that is, as a monopoly or a
semi-monopoly succeeded in surviving and growing, it would partake of
the character of a natural monopoly, and would be in a position to
profit beyond its deserts from the growth of the community. In that
event a community which had any idea of making economic responsibility
commensurate with power would be obliged to adopt a policy of gradual

The public service corporations in the large cities have already reached
the stage of being recognized natural monopolies. In the case of these
corporations public opinion is pretty well agreed that a monopoly
controlling the whole service is more likely to be an efficient servant
of the city than a number of separate corporations, among whom
competition in order to be effective must be destructive and wasteful.
American municipal policy is consequently being adapted to the idea of
monopolized control of these public services. The best manner of dealing
with these monopolies, after they have been created and recognized, is
not settled by any means to the same extent; but the principle of
restricting the franchises under which they operate to a limited term of
years is well established, and the tendency is towards a constant
reduction of the length of such leases and towards the retention of a
right of purchase, exercisable at all or at certain stated times. The
American city has come to realize that such privileges possess a value
which increases automatically with the growth of the city and with the
guarantee against competition; and this source of value should never be
alienated except for a short period and on the most stringent terms.
Wherever, consequently, a city has retained any control over such
franchises, it is converting the public service corporations merely into
temporary tenants of what are essentially exclusive economic privileges.
During the period of its tenancy the management of a corporation has
full opportunity to display any ability and energy whereof it may be
possessed; and such peculiarly efficient management should be capable of
earning sufficient if not excessive rewards. In the meantime, any
increase in value which would result inevitably from the possession of a
monopoly in a growing community would accrue, as it should, to the
community itself.

The only alternative to such a general scheme of municipal policy in
relation to public service corporations would be one of municipal
operation as well as municipal ownership; and municipal operation
unquestionably has certain theoretical advantages. When a corporation
enjoys a tenancy for a stated term only, there is always a danger that
it will seek temporarily larger profits by economizing on the quality of
its service. It has not the same interest in building up a permanently
profitable business that it would in case it were owner as well as
operator. This divergence of interest may lead to a good deal of
friction; but for the present at least the mixed system of public
ownership and private operation offers the better chance of satisfactory
results. As long as the municipal civil service remains in its existing
disorganized and inefficient condition, the public administration should
not be granted any direct responsibility which can be withheld without
endangering an essential public interest. A system of public operation
would be preferable to one of divided personal responsibility between
public and private officials; but when a mixed system can be created
which sharply distinguishes the two responsibilities one from another
without in any way confusing them, it combines for the time being a
maximum of merit with a minimum of friction.

Such a system carries with it, however, two results, not always
appreciated. A municipality which embarks upon a policy of guaranteeing
monopolies and leasing the enjoyment thereof should make all permanent
improvements to the system at its own expense, and its financial
organization and methods must be adapted to the necessity of raising a
liberal supply of funds for such essential purposes. Its borrowing
capacity must not be arbitrarily restricted as in the case of so many
American cities at the present time; and, of course, any particular
lease must be arranged so as to provide not only the interest on the
money raised for all work of construction, but for the extinction of the
debt thereby incurred. Furthermore a city adopting such a policy should
push it to the limit. Wherever, as is so often the case, private
companies now enjoy a complete or a substantial monopoly of any service,
and do so by virtue of permanent franchises, every legal means should be
taken to nullify such an intolerable appropriation of the resources of
the community. Persistent and ruthless war should be declared upon these
unnatural monopolies, because as long as they exist they are an absolute
bar to any thoroughly democratic and constructive system of municipal
economy. Measures should be taken which under other circumstances would
be both unfair and unwise for the deliberate purpose of bringing them to
terms, and getting them to exchange their permanent possession of these
franchises for a limited tenancy. Permanent commissions should be placed
over them with the right and duty of interfering officiously in their
business. Taxation should be made to bear heavily upon them. Competitive
services should be established wherever this could be done without any
excessive loss. They should be annoyed and worried in every legal way;
and all those burdens should be imposed upon them with the explicit
understanding that they were measures of war. In adopting such a policy
a community would be fighting for an essential condition of future
economic integrity and well-being, and it need not be any more
scrupulous about the means employed (always "under the law") than would
an animal in his endeavor to kill some blood-sucking parasite. The
corporation should plainly be told that the fight would be abandoned
wherever it was ready to surrender its unlimited franchises for a
limited but exclusive monopoly, which in these cases should in all
fairness run for a longer term than would be ordinarily permissible.

I have lingered over the case of corporations enjoying municipal
franchises, because they offer the only existing illustration of a
specific economic situation--a situation in which a monopolized service
is based upon exclusive and permanent economic advantages. Precisely the
same situation does not exist in any other part of the economic area;
but the idea is that under a policy of properly regulated recognition
such a situation may come to exist in respect to those corporations
which should be subject to the jurisdiction of the central government;
and just in so far as it does come to exist, the policy of the central
government should resemble the one suggested for the municipal
governments and already occasionally adopted by them. That any
corporations properly subject to the jurisdiction of the Federal
government will attain to the condition of being a "natural" monopoly
may be disputed; but according to the present outlook, if such is not
the case, the only reason will be that the government by means of
official and officious interference "regulates" them into inefficiency,
and consequent inability to hold their own against smaller and less
"regulated" competitors. If these corporations are left in the enjoyment
of the natural advantages which wisely or unwisely they have been
allowed to appropriate, some of them at any rate will gradually attain
to the economic standing of "natural" monopolies.

The railroad system of the country is gradually approximating to such a
condition. The process of combination which has been characteristic of
American railroad development from the start has been checked recently
both by government action and by anti-railroad agitation; but if the
railroads were exempted from the provisions of the Anti-Trust Law and
were permitted, subject to official approval, either to make agreements
or to merge, according as they were competing or non-competing lines,
there can be no doubt that the whole country would be gradually divided
up among certain large and essentially non-competitive systems. A
measure of competition would always remain, even if one corporation
controlled the entire railway system, because the varying and
conflicting demands of different localities and businesses for changes
in rates would act as a competitive force; and in the probable system
of a division of territory, this competitive force would have still more
influence. But at the same time by far the larger part of the freight
and passenger traffic of the country would under such a system be shared
by arrangement among the several corporations. The ultimate share of
each of the big corporations would not be determined until the period of
building new through routes had passed. But this period is not likely to
endure for more than another generation. Thereafter additional railroad
construction will be almost exclusively a matter of branch extensions
and connections, or of duplicating tracks already in existence; and when
such a situation is reached, the gross traffic will be just as much
divided among the cooeperative companies as if it were distributed among
different lines by a central management. Certain lines would be managed
more efficiently than others and might make more money, just as certain
departments of a big business might, because of peculiarly able
management, earn an unusually large contribution to the total profits;
but such variations could not be of any essential importance. From the
point of view of the community as a whole the railroad system of the
country would be a monopoly.

The monopoly, like that of a municipal street railroad, would depend
upon the possession of exclusive advantages. It would depend upon the
ownership of terminals in large and small cities which could no longer
be duplicated save at an excessive expense. It would depend upon the
possession of a right of way in relation to which the business
arrangements of a particular territory had been adjusted. It would have
become essentially a special franchise, even if it had not been granted
as a special franchise by any competent legal authority; and, like every
similar franchise, it would increase automatically in value with the
growth of the community in population and business. This automatic
increase in value, like that of a municipal franchise, should be secured
to the community which creates it; and it can be secured only by some
such means as those suggested in the case of municipal franchises. The
Federal government must, that is, take possession of that share of
railroad property represented by the terminals, the permanent right of
way, the tracks, and the stations. It is property of this kind which
enables the railroads to become a monopoly, and which, if left in
private hands, would absolutely prevent the gradual construction of a
national economic system.

In the existing condition of economic development and of public opinion,
the man who believes in the ultimate necessity of government ownership
of railroad road-beds and terminals must be content to wait and to
watch. The most that he can do for the present is to use any opening,
which the course of railroad development affords, for the assertion of
his ideas; and if he is right, he will gradually be able to work out, in
relation to the economic situation of the railroads, some practical
method of realizing the ultimate purpose. Even if public opinion
eventually decided that the appropriation of the railroads was necessary
in the national economic interest, the end could in all probability be
very slowly realized. In return, for instance, for the benefit of
government credit, granted under properly regulated conditions, the
railroads might submit to the operation of some gradual system of
appropriation, which would operate only in the course of several
generations, and the money for which would be obtained by the taxation
of railroad earnings. It might, however, be possible to arrange a scheme
of immediate purchase and the conversion of all railway securities,
except those representing equipment and working capital, into one
special class of government security. In that case the whole railroad
system of the country could be organized into a certain limited number
of special systems, which could be leased for a definite term of years
to private corporations. These independent systems would in their mutual
relations stimulate that economic rivalry among localities which is the
wholesome aspect of railroad competition. Each of these companies
should, of course, be free to fix such rates as were considered
necessary for the proper development and distribution of traffic within
its own district.

Any such specific suggestions cannot at the present time be other than
fanciful; and they are offered, not because of their immediate or
proximate practical value, but because of the indication they afford of
the purposes which must be kept in mind in drawing up a radical plan of
railroad reorganization in the ultimate national interest. All such
plans of reorganization should carefully respect existing railroad
property values, unless the management of those railroads obstinately
and uncompromisingly opposed all concessions necessary to the
realization of the national interest. In that event the nation would be
as much justified in fighting for its essential interests as would under
analogous circumstances a municipality. Furthermore, any such
reorganization should aim at keeping the benefits of the then existing
private organization--whatever they might be. It should remain true to
the principle that, so far as economic authority and power is delegated
in the form of terminable leases to private corporations, such power
should be complete within certain defined limits. If agents of the
national economic interest cannot be trusted to fulfill their
responsibilities without some system of detailed censure and supervision
they should be entirely dispensed with. It may be added that if the
proposed or any kindred method of reorganization becomes politically and
economically possible, the circumstances which account for its
possibility will in all probability carry with them some practicable
method of realizing the proposed object.

Wherever the conditions, obtaining in the case of railroad and public
service corporations, are duplicated in that of an industrial
corporation, a genuinely national economic system would demand the
adoption of similar measures. How far or how often these measures would
be necessarily applied to industrial corporations could be learned only
after a long period of experimentation, and during this period the
policy of recognition, tempered by regulation under definite conditions
and graduated taxation of net profits would have to be applied. But when
such a policy had been applied for a period sufficiently prolonged to
test their value as national economic agents, further action might
become desirable in their case as in that of the railroads. The
industrial, unlike the service corporations, cannot, however, be
considered as belonging to a class which must be all treated in the same
way. Conditions would vary radically in different industries; and the
case of each industry should be considered in relation to its special
conditions. Wherever the tendency in any particular industry continued
to run in the direction of combination, and wherever the increasingly
centralized control of that industry was associated with a practical
monopoly of some mineral, land, or water rights, the government might be
confronted by another instance of a natural monopoly, which it would be
impolitic and dangerous to leave in private hands. In all such cases
some system of public ownership and private operation should, if
possible, be introduced. On the other hand, in case the tendency to
combination was strengthened in an industry, such, for instance, as that
of the manufacture of tobacco, which does not depend upon the actual
ownership of any American natural resources, the manner of dealing with
it would be a matter of expediency, which would vary in different cases.
In the case of a luxury like tobacco, either a government monopoly might
be created, as has been already done so frequently abroad, or the state
might be satisfied with a sufficient share of the resulting profits. No
general rule can be laid down for such cases; and they will not come up
for serious consideration until the more fundamental question of the
railroads has been agitated to the point of compelling some kind of a
definite settlement.

This sketch of a constructive national policy in relation to
corporations need not be carried any further. Its purpose has been to
convert to the service of a national democratic economic system the
industrial organization which has gradually been built up in this
country; and to make this conversion, if possible, without impairing the
efficiency of the system, and without injuring individuals in any
unnecessary way. The attempt will be criticised, of course, as
absolutely destructive of American economic efficiency and as wickedly
unjust to individuals; and there will be, from the point of view of the
critics, some truth in the criticism. No such reorganization of our
industrial methods could be effected without a prolonged period of
agitation, which would undoubtedly injure the prosperity and unsettle
the standing of the victims of the agitation; and no matter what the
results of the agitation, there must be individual loss and suffering.
But there is a distinction to be made between industrial efficiency and
business prosperity. Americans have hitherto identified prosperity with
a furious economic activity, and an ever-increasing economic
product--regardless of genuine economy of production and any proper
distribution of the fruits. Unquestionably, the proposed reorganization
of American industrial methods would for a while make many individual
Americans less prosperous. But it does not follow that the efficiency of
the national economic organization need be compromised, because its
fruits are differently distributed and are temporarily less abundant.
It is impossible to judge at present how far that efficiency depends
upon the chance, which Americans have enjoyed, of appropriating far more
money than they have earned, and far more than they can spend except
either by squandering it or giving it away. But in any event the
dangerous lack of national economic balance involved by the existing
distribution of wealth must be redressed. This object is so essential
that its attainment is worth the inevitable attendant risks. In seeking
to bring it about, no clear-sighted democratic economist would expect to
"have it both ways." Even a very gradual displacement of the existing
method of distributing economic fruits will bring with it regrettable
wounds and losses. But provided they are incurred for the benefit of the
American people as an economic whole, they are worth the penalty. The
national economic interest demands, on the one hand, the combination of
abundant individual opportunity with efficient organization, and on the
other, a wholesome distribution, of the fruits; and these joint
essentials will be more certainly attained under some such system as the
one suggested than they are under the present system.

The genuine economic interest of the individual, like the genuine
political interest, demands a distribution of economic power and
responsibility, which will enable men of exceptional ability an
exceptional opportunity of exercising it. Industrial leaders, like
political leaders, should be content with the opportunity of doing
efficient work, and with a scale of reward which permits them to live a
complete human life. At present the opportunity of doing efficient
industrial work is in the case of the millionaires (not in that of their
equally or more efficient employees) accompanied by an excessive measure
of reward, which is, in the moral interest of the individual, either
meaningless or corrupting. The point at which these rewards cease to be
earned is a difficult one to define; but there certainly can be no
injustice in appropriating for the community those increases in value
which are due merely to a general increase in population and business;
and this increase in value should be taken over by the community, no
matter whether it is divided among one hundred or one hundred thousand
stockholders in a corporation. The essential purpose is to secure for
the whole community those elements in value which are made by the
community. The semi-monopolistic organization of certain American
industries is little by little enabling the government to separate from
the total economic product a part at least of that fraction which is
created by social rather than individual activity; and a democracy which
failed to take advantage of the opportunity would be blind to its
fundamental interest. To be sure, the opportunity cannot be turned to
the utmost public benefit until industrial leaders, like political
leaders, are willing to do efficient work partly from disinterested
motives; but that statement is merely a translation into economic terms
of the fundamental truth that democracy, as a political and social
ideal, is founded essentially upon disinterested human action. A
democracy can disregard or defy that truth at its peril.



Before dismissing this subject of a national industrial organization and
a better distribution of the fruits thereof brief references must be
made to certain other aspects of the matter. The measures which the
central and local governments could take for the purpose of adapting our
economic and social institutions to the national economic and social
interest would not be exhausted by the adoption of the proposed policy
of reconstruction; and several of these supplementary means, which have
been proposed to accomplish the same object, deserve consideration. Some
of these proposals look towards a further use of the power of taxation,
possessed by both the state and the Federal governments; but it must not
be supposed that in their entirety they constitute a complete system of
taxation. They are merely examples, like the protective tariff, of the
use of the power of taxation to combine a desirable national object with
the raising of money for the expenses of government.

It may be assumed that the adoption of the policy outlined in the last
section would gradually do away with certain undesirable inequalities in
the distribution of wealth: but this process, it is scarcely necessary
to add, would do nothing to mitigate existing inequalities. Existing
inequalities ought to be mitigated; and they can be mitigated without
doing the slightest injustice to their owners. The means to such
mitigation are, of course, to be found in a graduated inheritance tax--a
tax which has already been accepted in principle by several American
states and by the English government, which certainly cannot be
considered indifferent to the rights of individual property owners.

At the present stage of the argument, no very elaborate justification
can be necessary, either for the object proposed by a graduated
inheritance tax, or for the use of precisely these means to attain it.
The preservation intact of a fortune over a certain amount is not
desirable either in the public or individual interest. No doubt there
are certain people who have the gift of spending money well, and whose
personal value as well as the general social interest is heightened by
the opportunity of being liberal. But to whatever extent such
considerations afford a moral justification for private property, they
have no relevancy to the case of existing American fortunes. The
multi-millionaire cannot possibly spend his income save by a recourse to
wild and demoralizing extravagance, and in some instances not even
extravagance is sufficient for the purpose. Fortunes of a certain size
either remorselessly accumulate or else are given away. There is a
general disposition to justify the possession of many millions by the
frequent instances among their owners of intelligent public benefaction,
but such an argument is a confession that a justification is needed
without constituting in itself a sufficient excuse. If wealth,
particularly when accumulated in large amounts, has a public function,
and if its possession imposes a public duty, a society is foolish to
leave such a duty to the accidental good intentions of individuals. It
should be assumed and should be efficiently performed by the state; and
the necessity of that assumption is all the plainer when it is
remembered that the greatest public gifts usually come from the first
generation of millionaires. Men who inherit great wealth and are brought
up in extravagant habits nearly always spend their money on themselves.
That is one reason why the rich Englishman is so much less generous in
his public gifts than the rich American. In the long run men inevitably
become the victims of their wealth. They adapt their lives and habits to
their money, not their money to their lives. It pre-occupies their
thoughts, creates artificial needs, and draws a curtain between them and
the world. If the American people believe that large wealth really
requires to be justified by proportionately large public benefactions,
they should assuredly adopt measures which will guarantee public service
for a larger proportion of such wealth.

Whether or not the state shall permit the inheritance of large fortunes
is a question which stands on a totally different footing from the
question of their permissible accumulation. Many millions may, at least
in part, be earned by the men who accumulate them; but they cannot in
the least be earned by the people who inherit them. They could not be
inherited at all save by the intervention of the state; and the state
has every right to impose conditions in its own interest upon the whole
business of inheritance. The public interests involved go very much
beyond the matter of mitigating flagrant inequalities of wealth. They
concern at bottom the effect of the present system of inheritance upon
the inheritors and upon society; and in so far as the system brings with
it the creation of a class of economic parasites, it can scarcely be
defended. But such is precisely its general tendency. The improbability
that the children will inherit with the wealth of the parent his
possibly able and responsible use of it is usually apparent to the
father himself; and not infrequently he ties up his millions in trust,
so that they are sure to have the worst possible moral effect upon his
heirs. Children so circumstanced are deprived of any economic
responsibility save that of spending an excessive income; and, of
course, they are bound to become more or less respectable parasites. The
manifest dissociation thereby implied between the enjoyment of wealth
and the personal responsibility attending its ownership, has resulted in
the proposal that fathers should be forbidden by the state to arrange so
carefully for the demoralization of their children and grandchildren.
Even if we are not prepared to acquiesce in so radical an impairment of
the rights of testators, there can be no doubt that, under a properly
framed system of inheritance taxation, all property placed in trust for
the benefit of male heirs above a certain amount should be subject to an
exceptionally severe deduction. Whatever justification such methods of
guaranteeing personal financial irresponsibility may have in
aristocratic countries, in which an upper class may need a peculiar
economic freedom, they are hostile both to the individual and public
interest of a democratic community.

Public opinion is not, however, even remotely prepared for any radical
treatment of the whole matter of inheritance; and it will not be
prepared, until it has learned from experience that the existing freedom
enjoyed by rich testators means the sacrifice of the quick to the
dead--the mutilation of living individuals in the name of individual
freedom and in order that a dead will may have its way. Until this
lesson is learned the most that can be done is to work for some kind of
a graduated inheritance tax, the severity of which should be dictated
chiefly by conditions of practical efficiency. Considerations of
practical efficiency make it necessary that the tax should be imposed
exclusively by the Federal government. State inheritance taxes,
sufficiently large to accomplish the desirable result, will be evaded by
change of residence to another state. A Federal tax could be raised to a
much higher level without prompting the two possible methods of
evasion--one of which would be the legal transfer of the property during
lifetime, and the other a complete change of residence to some foreign
country. This second method of evasion would not constitute a serious
danger, because of the equally severe inheritance laws of foreign
countries. The tax at its highest level could be placed without danger
of evasion at as much as twenty per cent. The United Kingdom now raises
almost $100,000,000 of revenue from the source; and a slightly increased
scale of taxation might yield double that amount to the American
Treasury, a part of which could be turned into the state Treasuries.

There has been associated with the graduated inheritance tax the plan of
a graduated income tax; but the graduated income tax would serve the
proposed object both less efficiently and less equitably. It taxes the
man who earns the money as well as him who inherits it. It taxes earned
income as well as income derived from investments; and in taxing the
income derived from investments, it cannot make any edifying
discrimination as to its source. Finally, it would interfere with a much
more serviceable plan of taxing the net profits of corporations subject
to the jurisdiction of the Federal government--a plan which is an
indispensable part of any constructive treatment of the corporation
problem in the near future.

The suggestion that the inheritance tax should constitute a pillar of
central rather than local taxation implicitly raises a whole series of
difficult Constitutional and fiscal questions concerning the relation
between central and local taxation. The discussion of these questions
would carry me very much further than my present limits permit; and
there is room in this connection for only one additional remark. The
real estate tax and saloon licenses should, I believe, constitute the
foundation of the state revenues; but inasmuch as certain states have
derived a considerable part of their income from corporation and
inheritance taxes, allowance would have to be made for this fact in
revising the methods of Federal taxation. It is essential to any
effective control over corporations and over the "money power" that
corporation and inheritance taxes should be uniform throughout the
country, and should be laid by the central government; but no equally
good reason can be urged on behalf of the exclusive appropriation by the
Federal Treasury of the proceeds of these taxes. If the states need
revenues derived from these sources, a certain proportion of the net
receipts could be distributed among the states. The proportion should be
the same in the case of all the states; but it should be estimated in
the case of any particular state upon the net yield which the Federal
Treasury had derived from its residents.



Only one essential phase of a constructive national policy remains to be
considered--and that is the organization of labor. The necessity for the
formulation of some constructive policy in respect to labor is as patent
as is that for the formulation of a similar policy in respect to
corporate wealth. Any progress in the solution of the problem of the
better distribution of wealth will, of course, have a profound indirect
effect on the amelioration of the condition of labor; but such progress
will be at best extremely slow, and in the meantime the labor problem
presses for some immediate and direct action. As we have seen, American
labor has not been content with the traditional politico-economic
optimism. Like all aggressive men alive to their own interest, the
laborer soon decided that what he really needed was not equal rights,
but special opportunities. He also soon learned that in order to get
these special opportunities he must conquer them by main force--which he
proceeded to do with, on the whole, about as much respect for the law as
was exhibited by the big capitalists. In spite of many setbacks the
unionizing of industrial labor has been attended with almost as much
success as the consolidating of industrial power and wealth; and now
that the labor unions have earned the allegiance of their members by
certain considerable and indispensable services, they find themselves
placed, in the eyes of the law, in precisely the same situation as
combinations of corporate wealth. Both of these attempts at industrial
organization are condemned by the Sherman Anti-Trust Law and by certain
similar state legislation as conspiracies against the freedom of trade
and industry.

The labor unions, consequently, like the big corporations, need legal
recognition; and this legal recognition means in their case, also,
substantial discrimination by the state in their favor. Of course, the
unionist leaders appeal to public opinion with the usual American cant.
According to their manifestoes they demand nothing but "fair play"; but
the demand for fair play is as usual merely the hypocritical exterior of
a demand for substantial favoritism. Just as there can be no effective
competition between the huge corporation controlling machinery of
production which cannot be duplicated and the small manufacturer in the
same line, so there can be no effective competition between the
individual laborer and the really efficient labor union. To recognize
the labor union, and to incorporate it into the American legal system,
is equivalent to the desertion by the state of the non-union laborer. It
means that in the American political and economic system the
organization of labor into unions should be preferred to its
disorganized separation into competing individuals. Complete freedom of
competition among laborers, which is often supposed to be for the
interest of the individual laborer, can only be preserved as an
effective public policy by active discrimination against the unions.

An admission that the recognition of labor unions amounts to a
substantial discrimination in their favor would do much to clear up the
whole labor question. So far as we declare that the labor unions ought
to be recognized, we declare that they ought to be favored; and so far
as we declare that the labor union ought to be favored, we have made a
great advance towards the organization of labor in the national
interest. The labor unions deserve to be favored, because they are the
most effective machinery which has as yet been forged for the economic
and social amelioration of the laboring class. They have helped to raise
the standard of living, to mitigate the rigors of competition among
individual laborers, and in this way to secure for labor a larger share
of the total industrial product. A democratic government has little or
less reason to interfere on behalf of the non-union laborer than it has
to interfere in favor of the small producer. As a type the non-union
laborer is a species of industrial derelict. He is the laborer who has
gone astray and who either from apathy, unintelligence, incompetence, or
some immediately pressing need prefers his own individual interest to
the joint interests of himself and his fellow-laborers. From the point
of view of a constructive national policy he does not deserve any
special protection. In fact, I am willing to go farther and assert that
the non-union industrial laborer should, in the interest of a genuinely
democratic organization of labor, be rejected; and he should be rejected
as emphatically, if not as ruthlessly, as the gardener rejects the weeds
in his garden for the benefit of fruit-and flower-bearing plants.

The statement just made unquestionably has the appearance of proposing a
harsh and unjust policy in respect to non-union laborers; but before the
policy is stigmatized as really harsh or unjust, the reader should wait
until he has pursued the argument to its end. Our attitude towards the
non-union laborer must be determined by our opinion of the results of
his economic action. In the majority of discussions of the labor
question the non-union laborer is figured as the independent working man
who is asserting his right to labor when and how he prefers against the
tyranny of the labor union. One of the most intelligent political and
social thinkers in our country has gone so far as to describe them as
industrial heroes, who are fighting the battle of individual
independence against the army of class oppression. Neither is this
estimate of the non-union laborer wholly without foundation. The
organization and policy of the contemporary labor union being what they
are, cases will occasionally and even frequently occur in which the
non-union laborer will represent the protest of an individual against
injurious restrictions imposed by the union upon his opportunities and
his work. But such cases are rare compared to the much larger number of
instances in which the non-union laborer is to be considered as
essentially the individual industrial derelict. In the competition among
laboring men for work there will always be a certain considerable
proportion who, in order to get some kind of work for a while, will
accept almost any conditions of labor or scale of reward offered to
them. Men of this kind, either because of irresponsibility,
unintelligence, or a total lack of social standards and training, are
continually converting the competition of the labor market into a force
which degrades the standard of living and prevents masses of their
fellow-workmen from obtaining any real industrial independence. They it
is who bring about the result that the most disagreeable and dangerous
classes of labor remain the poorest paid; and as long as they are
permitted to have their full effects upon the labor situation, progress
to a higher standard of living is miserably slow and always suffers a
severe setback during a period of hard times. From any comprehensive
point of view union and not non-union labor represents the independence
of the laborer, because under existing conditions such independence must
be bought by association. Worthy individuals will sometimes be
sacrificed by this process of association; but every process of
industrial organization or change, even one in a constructive direction,
necessarily involves individual cases of injustice.

Hence it is that the policy of so-called impartiality is both
impracticable and inexpedient. The politician who solemnly declares that
he believes in the right of the laboring man to organize, and that labor
unions are deserving of approval, but that he also believes in the right
of the individual laborer to eschew unionism whenever it suits his
individual purpose or lack of purpose,--such familiar declarations
constitute merely one more illustration of our traditional habit of
"having it both ways." It is always possible to have it both ways, in
case the two ways do not come into conflict; but where they do conflict
in fact and in theory, the sensible man must make his choice. The labor
question will never be advanced towards solution by proclaiming it to be
a matter of antagonistic individual rights. It involves a fundamental
public interest--the interest which a democracy must necessarily take in
the economic welfare of its own citizens; and this interest demands that
a decisive preference be shown for labor organization. The labor unions
are perfectly right in believing that all who are not for them are
against them, and that a state which was really "impartial" would be
adopting a hypocritical method of retarding the laborer from improving
his condition. The unions deserve frank and loyal support; and until
they obtain it, they will remain, as they are at present, merely a class
organization for the purpose of extorting from the political and
economic authorities the maximum of their special interests.

The labor unions should be granted their justifiable demand for
recognition, partly because only by means of recognition can an
effective fight be made against their unjustifiable demands. The large
American employer of labor, and the whole official politico-economic
system, is placed upon the defensive by a refusal frankly to prefer
unionism. Union labor is allowed to conquer at the sword's point a
preferential treatment which should never have been refused; and the
consequence is that its victory, so far as it is victorious, is that of
an industrial faction. The large employer and the state are disqualified
from insisting on their essential and justifiable interests in respect
to the organization of labor, because they have rejected a demand
essential to the interest of the laborer. They have remained
consistently on the defensive; and a merely defensive policy in warfare
is a losing policy. Every battle the unions win is a clear gain. Every
fight which they lose means merely a temporary suspension of their
aggressive tactics. They lose nothing by it but a part of their
equipment and prestige, which can be restored by a short period of
inaction and accumulation. A few generations more of this sort of
warfare will leave the unions in substantial possession of the whole
area of conflict; and their victory may well turn their heads so
completely that its effects will be intolerable and disastrous.

The alternative policy would consist in a combination of conciliation
and aggressive warfare. The spokesman of a constructive national policy
in respect to the organization of labor would address the unions in some
such words as these: "Yes! You are perfectly right in demanding
recognition, and in demanding that none but union labor be employed in
industrial work. That demand will be granted, but only on definite
terms. You should not expect an employer to recognize a union which
establishes conditions and rules of labor inimical to a desirable
measure of individual economic distinction and independence. Your
recognition, that is, must depend upon conformity to another set of
conditions, imposed in the interest of efficiency and individual
economic independence. In this respect you will be treated precisely as
large corporations are treated. The state will recognize the kind of
union which in contributing to the interest of its members contributes
also to the general economic interest. On the other hand, it will not
only refuse to recognize a union whose rules and methods are inimical to
the public economic interest, but it will aggressively and relentlessly
fight such unions. Employment will be denied to laborers who belong to
unions of that character. In trades where such unions are dominant,
counter-unions will be organized, and the members of these
counter-unions alone will have any chance of obtaining work. In this way
the organization of labor like the organization of capital may gradually
be fitted into a nationalized economic system."

The conditions to which a "good" labor union ought to conform are more
easily definable than the conditions to which a "good" trust ought to
conform. In the first place the union should have the right to demand a
minimum wage and a minimum working day. This minimum would vary, of
course, in different trades, in different branches of the same trade,
and in different parts of the country; and it might vary, also, at
different industrial seasons. It would be reached by collective
bargaining between the organizations of the employer and those of the
employee. The unions would be expected to make the best terms that they
could; and under the circumstances they ought to be able to make terms
as good as trade conditions would allow. These agreements would be
absolute within the limits contained in the bond. The employer should
not have to keep on his pay-roll any man who in his opinion was not
worth the money; but if any man was employed, he could not be obliged to
work for less than for a certain sum. On the other hand, in return for
such a privileged position the unions would have to abandon a number of
rules upon which they now insist. Collective bargaining should establish
the minimum amount of work and pay; but the maximum of work and pay
should be left to individual arrangement. An employer should be able to
give a peculiarly able or energetic laborer as much more than the
minimum wage as in his opinion the man was worth; and men might be
permitted to work over-time, provided they were paid for the over-time
one and one half or two times as much as they were paid for an ordinary
working hour. The agreement between the employers and the union should
also provide for the terms upon which men would be admitted into the
union. The employer, if he employed only union men, should have a right
to demand that the supply of labor should not be artificially
restricted, and that he could depend upon procuring as much labor as the
growth of his business might require. Finally in all skilled trades
there should obviously be some connection between the unions and the
trade schools; and it might be in this respect that the union would
enter into closest relations with the state. The state would have a
manifest interest in making the instruction in these schools of the very
best, and in furnishing it free to as many apprentices as the trade
agreement permitted.

In all probability the general policy roughly sketched above will please
one side to the labor controversy as little as it does another. Union
leaders might compare the recognition received by the unions under the
proposed conditions to the recognition which the bear accords to the man
whom he hugs to death. They would probably prefer for the time being
their existing situation--that of being on the high road to the conquest
of almost unconditional submission. On the other hand, the large
employers believe with such fine heroism of conviction in the principle
of competition among their employees that they dislike to surrender the
advantages of industrial freedom to the oppressive exigencies of
collective bargaining. In assuming such an attitude both sides would be
right from their own class points of view. The plan is not intended to
further the selfish interest of either the employer or the union.
Whatever merits it has consist in its possible ability to promote the
national economic interest in a progressively improving general standard
of living, in a higher standard of individual work, and in a general
efficiency of labor. The existing system has succeeded hitherto in
effecting a progressive improvement in the standard of living, but the
less said the better about its effects upon labor-quality and
labor-efficiency. In the long run it looks as if the improvement in the
standard of living would be brought to an end by the accompanying
inefficiency of labor. At any rate the employers are now fighting for an
illusory benefit; and because they are fighting for an illusory benefit
they are enabling the unions to associate all sorts of dangerous
conditions with their probable victory. The proposed plan does not do
away with the necessity of a fight. The relations between labor and
capital are such that only by fighting can they reach a better
understanding. But it asks the employers to consider carefully what they
are fighting for, and whether they will not lose far more from a defeat
than they will gain from a successful defense. And it asks the unions to
consider whether a victory, gained at the expense of labor-efficiency,
will not deprive them of its fruits. Let the unions fight for something
they can keep; and let the employers fight for something they will not
be sure to lose.

The writer is fully aware of the many difficulties attending the
practical application of any such policy. Indeed it could not be worked
at all, unless the spirit and methods of collective bargaining between
the employers and the labor organizations were very much improved. The
consequences of a strike would be extremely serious for both of the
disputants and for the consumers. If disagreements terminating in
strikes and lock-outs remained as numerous as they are at present, there
would result both for the producer and consumer a condition of perilous
and perhaps intolerable uncertitude. But this objection, although
serious, is not unanswerable. The surest way in which a condition of
possible warfare, founded on a genuine conflict of interest, can be
permanently alleviated is to make its consequences increasingly
dangerous. When the risks become very dangerous, reasonable men do not
fight except on grave provocation or for some essential purpose. Such
would be the result in any industry, both the employers and laborers of
which were completely organized. Collective bargaining would, under such
circumstances, assume a serious character; and no open fight would ensue
except under exceptional conditions and in the event of grave and
essential differences of opinion. Moreover, the state could make them
still less likely to happen by a policy of discreet supervision. Through
the passage of a law similar to the one recently enacted in the Dominion
of Canada, it could assure the employers and the public that no strike
would take place until every effort had been made to reach a fair
understanding or a compromise; and in case a strike did result, public
opinion could form a just estimate of the merits of the controversy. In
an atmosphere of discussion and publicity really prudent employers and
labor organizations would fight very rarely, if at all; and this result
would be the more certain, provided a consensus of public opinion
existed as the extent to which the clashing interests of the two
combatants could be fitted into the public interest. It should be
clearly understood that the public interest demanded, on the one hand, a
standard of living for the laborer as high as the industrial conditions
would permit, and on the other a standard of labor-efficiency equivalent
to the cost of labor and an opportunity for the exceptional individual
laborer to improve on that standard in his own interest. The whole
purpose of such an organization would be the attempt to develop
efficient labor and prosperous laboring men, whereas the tendency of the
existing organization is to associate the prosperity of the laboring man
with the inefficiency of labor. The employers are usually fighting not
for the purpose of developing good labor, but for the purpose of taking
advantage of poor, weak, and dependent laborers.

How far the central, state, and municipal governments could go in aiding
such a method of organization, is a question that can only be
indefinitely answered. The legislatures of many American states and
municipalities have already shown a disposition to aid the labor unions
in certain indirect ways. They seek by the passage of eight-hour and
prevailing rate-of-wages laws to give an official sanction to the claims
of the unions, and they do so without making any attempt to promote the
parallel public interest in an increasing efficiency of labor. But these
eight-hour and other similar laws are frequently being declared
unconstitutional by the state courts, and for the supposed benefit of
individual liberty. Without venturing on the disputed ground as to
whether such decisions are legitimate or illegitimate interpretations of
constitutional provisions, it need only be said in this, as in other
instances, that the courts are as much influenced in such decisions by a
political theory as they are by any fidelity to the fundamental law, and
that if they continue indefinitely in the same course, they are likely
to get into trouble. I shall, however, as usual, merely evade
constitutional obstacles, the full seriousness of which none but an
expert lawyer is competent to appraise. Both the state and the municipal
governments ought, just in so far as they have the power, to give
preference to union labor, but wherever possible they should also not
hesitate to discriminate between "good" and "bad" unions. Such a
discrimination would be beyond the courage of existing governments, but
a mild hope may be entertained that it would not be beyond the courage
of the regenerated governments. The adoption of some such attitude by
the municipal and state authorities might encourage employers to make
the fight along the same lines; and wherever an employer did make the
fight along those lines, he should, in his turn, receive all possible
support. In the long run the state could hardly impose by law such a
method of labor organization upon the industrial fabric. Unless the
employers themselves came to realize just what they could fight for with
some chance of success, and with the best general results if successful,
the state could not force him into a better understanding of the
relation between their own and the public interest. But in so far as any
tendency existed among employers to recognize the unions, but to insist
on efficiency and individual opportunity; and in so far as any tendency
existed among the unions to recognize the necessary relation between an
improving standard of living and the efficiency of labor--then the state
and municipal governments could interfere effectively on behalf of those
employers and those unions who stand for a constructive labor policy.
And in case the tendency towards an organization of labor in the
national interest became dominant, it might be possible to embody it in
a set of definite legal institutions. But any such set of legal
institutions would be impossible without an alteration in the Federal
and many state constitutions; and consequently they could not in any
event become a matter for precisely pressing consideration. In general,
however, the labor, even more than the corporation, problem will involve
grave and dubious questions of constitutional interpretation; and not
much advance can be made towards its solution until, in one way or
another, the hands of the legislative authority have been untied.

Before ending this very inadequate discussion of the line of advance
towards a constructive organization of labor, one more aspect thereof
must be briefly considered. Under the proposed plan the fate of the
non-union laborer, of the industrial dependent, would hang chiefly on
the extent to which the thorough-going organization of labor was
carried. In so far as he was the independent industrial individual which
the opponents of labor unions suppose him to be, he could have no
objection to joining the union, because his individual power of
efficient labor would have full opportunity of securing its reward. On
the other hand, in so far as he was unable to maintain a standard of
work commensurate with the prevailing rate of wages in any trade, he
would, of course, be excluded from its ranks. But it should be added
that in an enormous and complicated industrial body, such as that of the
United States, a man who could not maintain the standard of work in one
trade should be able to maintain it in another and less exacting trade.
The man who could not become an efficient carpenter might do for a
hod-carrier; and a man who found hod-carrying too hard on his shoulders
might be able to dig in the ground. There would be a sufficient variety
of work for all kinds of industrial workers; while at the same time
there would be a systematic attempt to prevent the poorer and less
competent laborers from competing with those of a higher grade and
hindering the latter's economic amelioration. Such a result would be
successful only in so far as the unions were in full possession of the
field; but if the unions secure full possession even of part of the
field, the tendency will be towards an ever completer monopoly. The
fewer trades into which the non-union laborers were crowded would drift
into an intolerable condition, which would make unionizing almost

If all, or almost all, the industrial labor of the country came to be
organized in the manner proposed, the only important kind of non-union
laborer left in the country would be agricultural; and such a result
could be regarded with equanimity by an economic statesman. The existing
system works very badly in respect to supplying the farmer with
necessary labor. In every period of prosperity the tendency is for
agricultural laborers to rush off to the towns and cities for the sake
of the larger wages and the less monotonous life; and when a period of
depression follows, their competition lowers the standard of living in
all organized trades. If the supply of labor were regulated, and its
efficiency increased as it would be under the proposed system,
agricultural laborers would not have the opportunity of finding
industrial work, except of the most inferior class, until their
competence had been proved; and it would become less fluid and unstable
than it is at present. Moreover, farm labor is, on the whole, much more
wholesome for economically dependent and mechanically untrained men than
labor in towns or cities. They are more likely under such conditions to
maintain a higher moral standard. If they can be kept upon the farm
until or unless they are prepared for a higher class of work, it will be
the greatest possible boon to American farming. Agriculture suffers in
this country peculiarly from the scarcity, the instability, and the high
cost of labor; and unless it becomes more abundant, less fluid, and more
efficient compared to its cost, intensive farming, as practiced in
Europe, will scarcely be possible in the United States. Neither should
it be forgotten that the least intelligent and trained grade of labor
would be more prosperous on the farms than in the cities, because of the
lower cost of living in an agricultural region. Their scale of wages
would be determined in general by that of the lowest grade of industrial
labor, but their expenses would be materially smaller.

That the organization of labor herewith suggested would prove to be any
ultimate solution of the labor problem, is wholly improbable. It would
constitute, like the proposed system, of corporate regulation, at best a
transitional method of reaching some very different method of
labor-training, distribution, and compensation; and what that method
might be, is at present merely a matter of speculation. The proposed
reorganization of labor, like the proposed system of institutional
reform, and like the proposed constructive regulation of large
industrial corporations, simply takes advantage of those tendencies in
our current methods which look in a formative direction; and in so far
as these several tendencies prevail, they will severally supplement and
strengthen one another. The more independent, responsible, and vigorous
political authority will be the readier to seek some formative solution
of the problem of the distribution of wealth and that of the
organization of labor. Just in so far as the combination of capital
continues to be economically necessary, it is bound to be accompanied by
the completer unionizing of labor. Just in so far as capital continues
to combine, the state is bound to appropriate the fruits of its monopoly
for public purposes. Just in so far as the corporations become the
lessees of special franchises from the state, pressure can be brought to
bear in favor of the more systematic and more stimulating organization
of labor; and finally, just in so far as labor was systematically
organized, public opinion would demand a vigorous and responsible
concentration of political and economic power, in order to maintain a
proper balance. An organic unity binds the three aspects of the system
together; and in so far as a constructive tendency becomes powerful in
any one region, it will tend by its own force to introduce constructive
methods of organization into the other divisions of the economic,
political, and social body.

Such are the outlines of a national policy which seeks to do away with
existing political and economic abuses, not by "purification" or
purging, but by substituting for them a more positive mode of action and
a more edifying habit of thought. The policy seeks to make headway
towards the most far-reaching and thorough-going democratic ideals by
the taking advantage of real conditions and using realistic methods. The
result may wear to advanced social reformers the appearance of a weak
compromise. The extreme socialist democrat will find a discrepancy
between the magnificent end and the paltry means. "Why seek to justify,"
he will ask, "a series of proposals for economic and institutional
reform most of which have already been tried in Europe for purely
practical reasons, why seek to justify such a humble scheme of
reconstruction by such a remote and lofty purpose?" It might remind him
of a New Yorker who started for the North Pole, but proposed to get
there by the Subway. The justification for the association of such a
realistic practical programme with an end which is nothing short of
moral and social improvement of mankind, is to be found, however, by the
manner in which even the foregoing proposals will be regarded by the
average American democrat. He will regard them as in meaning and effect
subversive of the established political and economic system of the
country; and he would be right. The American people could never adopt
the accompanying programme, moderate as it is from the point of view of
its ultimate object, without unsettling some of their most settled
habits and transforming many of their most cherished ideas. It would
mean for the American people the gradual assumption of a new
responsibility, the adoption of a new outlook, the beginning of a new
life. It would, consequently, be radical and revolutionary in
implication, even though it were modest in its expectation of immediate
achievement; and the fact that it is revolutionary in implication, but
moderate in its practical proposals, is precisely the justification for
my description of it as a constructive national programme. It is
national just because it seeks to realize the purpose of American
national association without undermining or overthrowing the living
conditions of American national integrity.





Hitherto we have been discussing the ways in which existing American
economic and political methods and institutions should be modified in
order to make towards the realization of the national democratic ideal.
In course of this discussion, it has been taken for granted that the
American people under competent and responsible leadership could
deliberately plan a policy of individual and social improvement, and
that with the means at their collective disposal they could make headway
towards its realization. These means consisted, of course, precisely in
their whole outfit of political, economic, and social institutions; and
the implication has been, consequently, that human nature can be raised
to a higher level by an improvement in institutions and laws. The
majority of my readers will probably have thought many times that such
an assumption, whatever its truth, has been overworked. Admitting that
some institutions may be better than others, it must also be admitted
that human nature is composed of most rebellious material, and that the
extent to which it can be modified by social and political institutions
of any kind is, at best, extremely small. Such critics may,
consequently, have reached the conclusion that the proposed system of
reconstruction, even if desirable, would not accomplish anything really
effectual or decisive towards the fulfillment of the American national

It is no doubt true that out of the preceding chapters many sentences
could be selected which apparently imply a credulous faith in the
possibility of improving human nature by law. It is also true that I
have not ventured more than to touch upon a possible institutional
reformation, which, in so far as it was successful in its purpose,
would improve human nature by the most effectual of all means--that is,
by improving the methods whereby men and women are bred. But if I have
erred in attaching or appearing to attach too much efficacy to legal and
institutional reforms, the error or its appearance was scarcely
separable from an analytic reconstruction of a sufficient democratic
ideal. Democracy must stand or fall on a platform of possible human
perfectibility. If human nature cannot be improved by institutions,
democracy is at best a more than usually safe form of political
organization; and the only interesting inquiry about its future would
be: How long will it continue to work? But if it is to work better as
well as merely longer, it must have some leavening effect on human
nature; and the sincere democrat is obliged to assume the power of the
leaven. For him the practical questions are: How can the improvement
best be brought about? and, How much may it amount to?

As a matter of fact, Americans have always had the liveliest and
completest faith in the process of individual and social improvement and
in accepting the assumption, I am merely adhering to the deepest and
most influential of American traditions. The better American has
continually been seeking to "uplift" himself, his neighbors, and his
compatriots. But he has usually favored means of improvement very
different from those suggested hereinbefore. The real vehicle of
improvement is education. It is by education that the American is
trained for such democracy as he possesses; and it is by better
education that he proposes to better his democracy. Men are uplifted by
education much more surely than they are by any tinkering with laws and
institutions, because the work of education leavens the actual social
substance. It helps to give the individual himself those qualities
without which no institutions, however excellent, are of any use, and
with which even bad institutions and laws can be made vehicles of grace.

The American faith in education has been characterized as a
superstition; and superstitious in some respects it unquestionably is.
But its superstitious tendency is not exhibited so much in respect to
the ordinary process of primary, secondary, and higher education. Not
even an American can over-emphasize the importance of proper teaching
during youth; and the only wonder is that the money so freely lavished
on it does not produce better results. Americans are superstitious in
respect to education, rather because of the social "uplift" which they
expect to achieve by so-called educational means. The credulity of the
socialist in expecting to alter human nature by merely institutional and
legal changes is at least equaled by the credulity of the good American
in proposing to evangelize the individual by the reading of books and by
the expenditure of money and words. Back of it all is the underlying
assumption that the American nation by taking thought can add a cubit to
its stature,--an absolute confidence in the power of the idea to create
its own object and in the efficacy of good intentions.

Do we lack culture? We will "make it hum" by founding a new university
in Chicago. Is American art neglected and impoverished? We will enrich
it by organizing art departments in our colleges, and popularize it by
lectures with lantern slides and associations for the study of its
history. Is New York City ugly? Perhaps, but if we could only get the
authorities to appropriate a few hundred millions for its
beautification, we could make it look like a combination of Athens,
Florence, and Paris. Is it desirable for the American citizen to be
something of a hero? I will encourage heroes by establishing a fund
whereby they shall be rewarded in cash. War is hell, is it? I will work
for the abolition of hell by calling a convention and passing a
resolution denouncing its iniquities. I will build at the Hague a Palace
of Peace which shall be a standing rebuke to the War Lords of Europe.
Here, in America, some of us have more money than we need and more good
will. We will spend the money in order to establish the reign of the
good, the beautiful, and the true.

This faith in a combination of good intentions, organization, words, and
money is not confined to women's clubs or to societies of amiable
enthusiasts. In the state of mind which it expresses can be detected the
powerful influence which American women exert over American men; but its
guiding faith and illusion are shared by the most hard-headed and
practical of Americans. The very men who have made their personal
successes by a rigorous application of the rule that business is
business--the very men who in their own careers have exhibited a shrewd
and vivid sense of the realities of politics and trade; it is these men
who have most faith in the practical, moral, and social power of the
Subsidized Word. The most real thing which they carry over from the
region of business into the region of moral and intellectual ideals is
apparently their bank accounts. The fruits of their hard work and their
business ability are to be applied to the purpose of "uplifting" their
fellow-countrymen. A certain number of figures written on a check and
signed by a familiar name, what may it not accomplish? Some years ago at
the opening exercises of the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburg, Mr. Andrew
Carnegie burst into an impassioned and mystical vision of the
miraculously constitutive power of first mortgage steel bonds. From his
point of view and from that of the average American there is scarcely
anything which the combination of abundant resources and good intentions
may not accomplish.

The tradition of seeking to cross the gulf between American practice and
the American ideal by means of education or the Subsidized Word is not
be dismissed with a sneer. The gulf cannot be crossed without the
assistance of some sort of educational discipline; and that discipline
depends partly on a new exercise of the "money power" now safely
reposing in the strong boxes of professional millionaires. There need be
no fundamental objection taken to the national faith in the power of
good intentions and re-distributed wealth. That faith is the immediate
and necessary issue of the logic of our national moral situation. It
should be, as it is, innocent and absolute; and if it does not remain
innocent and absolute, the Promise of American Life can scarcely be

A faith may, however, be innocent and absolute without being
inexperienced and credulous. The American faith in education is by way
of being credulous and superstitious, not because it seeks individual
and social amelioration by what may be called an educational process,
but because the proposed means of education are too conscious, too
direct, and too superficial. Let it be admitted that in any one decade
the amount which can be accomplished towards individual and social
amelioration by means of economic and political reorganization is
comparatively small; but it is certainly as large as that which can be
accomplished by subsidizing individual good intentions. Heroism is not
to be encouraged by cash prizes any more than is genius; and a man's
friends should not be obliged to prove that he is a hero in order that
he may reap every appropriate reward. A hero officially conscious of his
heroism is a mutilated hero. In the same way art cannot become a power
in a community unless many of its members are possessed of a native and
innocent love of beautiful things; and the extent to which such a
possession can be acquired by any one or two generations of
traditionally inartistic people is extremely small. Its acquisition
depends not so much upon direct conscious effort, as upon the growing
ability to discriminate between what is good and what is bad in their
own native art. It is a matter of the training and appreciation of
American artists, rather than the cultivation of art. Illustrations to
the same effect might be multiplied. The popular interest in the Higher
Education has not served to make Americans attach much importance to the
advice of the highly educated man. He is less of a practical power in
the United States than he is in any European country; and this fact is
in itself a sufficient commentary on the reality of the American faith
in education. The fact is, of course, that the American tendency to
disbelieve in the fulfillment of their national Promise by means of
politically, economically, and socially reconstructive work has forced
them into the alternative of attaching excessive importance to
subsidized good intentions. They want to be "uplifted," and they want to
"uplift" other people; but they will not use their social and political
institutions for the purpose, because those institutions are assumed to
be essentially satisfactory. The "uplifting" must be a matter of
individual, or of unofficial associated effort; and the only available
means are words and subsidies.

There is, however, a sense in which it is really true that the American
national Promise can be fulfilled only by education; and this aspect of
our desirable national education can, perhaps, best be understood by
seeking its analogue in the training of the individual. An individual's
education consists primarily in the discipline which he undergoes to fit
him both for fruitful association with his fellows and for his own
special work. Important as both the liberal and the technical aspect of
this preliminary training is, it constitutes merely the beginning of a
man's education. Its object is or should be to prepare him both in his
will and in his intelligence to make a thoroughly illuminating use of
his experience in life. His experience,--as a man of business, a
husband, a father, a citizen, a friend,--has been made real to him, not
merely by the zest with which he has sought it and the sincerity with
which he has accepted it, but by the disinterested intelligence which he
has brought to its understanding. An educational discipline which has
contributed in that way to the reality of a man's experience has done as
much for him as education can do; and an educational discipline which
has failed to make any such contribution has failed of its essential
purpose. The experience of other people acquired at second hand has
little value,--except, perhaps, as a means of livelihood,--unless it
really illuminates a man's personal experience.

Usually a man's ability to profit by his own personal experience depends
upon the sincerity and the intelligence which he brings to his own
particular occupation. The rule is not universal, because some men are,
of course, born with much higher intellectual gifts than others; and to
such men may be given an insight which has little foundation in any
genuine personal experience. It remains true, none the less, for the
great majority of men, that they gather an edifying understanding of men
and things just in so far as they patiently and resolutely stick to the
performance of some special and (for the most part) congenial task.
Their education in life must be grounded in the persistent attempt to
realize in action some kind of a purpose--a purpose usually connected
with the occupation whereby they live. In the pursuit of that purpose
they will be continually making experiments--opening up new lines of
work, establishing new relations with other men, and taking more or less
serious risks. Each of these experiments offers them an opportunity both
for personal discipline and for increasing personal insight. If a man is
capable of becoming wise, he will gradually be able to infer from this
increasing mass of personal experience, the extent to which or the
conditions under which he is capable of realizing his purpose; and his
insight into the particular realities of his own life will bring with
it some kind of a general philosophy--some sort of a disposition and
method of appraisal of men, their actions, and their surroundings.
Wherever a man reaches such a level of intelligence, he will be an
educated man, even though his particular job has been that of a
mechanic. On the other hand, a man who fails to make his particular task
in life the substantial support of a genuine experience remains
essentially an unenlightened man.

National education in its deeper aspect does not differ from individual
education. Its efficiency ultimately depends upon the ability of the
national consciousness to draw illuminating inferences from the course
of the national experience; and its power to draw such inferences must
depend upon the persistent and disinterested sincerity with which the
attempt is made to realize the national purpose--the democratic ideal of
individual and social improvement. So far as Americans are true to that
purpose, all the different aspects of their national experience will
assume meaning and momentum; while in so far as they are false thereto,
no amount of "education" will ever be really edifying. The fundamental
process of American education consists and must continue to consist
precisely in the risks and experiments which the American nation will
make in the service of its national ideal. If the American people balk
at the sacrifices demanded by their experiments, or if they attach
finality to any particular experiment in the distribution of political,
economic, and social power, they will remain morally and intellectually
at the bottom of a well, out of which they will never be "uplifted" by
the most extravagant subsidizing of good intentions and noble words.

The sort of institutional and economic reorganization suggested in the
preceding chapters is not, consequently, to be conceived merely as a
more or less dubious proposal to improve human nature by laws. It is to
be conceived as (possibly) the next step in the realization of a
necessary collective purpose. Its deeper significance does not consist
in the results which it may accomplish by way of immediate improvement.
Such results may be worth having; but at best they will create almost as
many difficulties as they remove. Far more important than any practical
benefits would be the indication it afforded of national good faith. It
would mean that the American nation was beginning to educate itself up
to its own necessary standards. It would imply a popular realization
that our first experiment in democratic political and economic
organization was founded partly on temporary conditions and partly on
erroneous theories. A new experiment must consequently be made; and the
great value of this new experiment would derive from the implied
intellectual and moral emancipation. Its trial would demand both the
sacrifice of many cherished interests, habits, and traditions for the
sake of remaining true to a more fundamental responsibility and a much
larger infusion of disinterested motives into the economic and political
system. Thus the sincere definite decision that the experiment was
necessary, would probably do more for American moral and social
amelioration than would the specific measures actually adopted and
tried. Public opinion can never be brought to approve any effectual
measures, until it is converted to a constructive and consequently to a
really educational theory of democracy.

Back of the problem of educating the individual lies the problem of
collective education. On the one hand, if the nation is rendered
incapable of understanding its own experience by the habit of dealing
insincerely with its national purpose, the individual, just in so far as
he himself has become highly educated, tends to be divided from his
country and his fellow-countrymen. On the other hand, just in so far as
a people is sincerely seeking the fulfillment of its national Promise,
individuals of all kinds will find their most edifying individual
opportunities in serving their country. In aiding the accomplishment of
the collective purpose by means of increasingly constructive
experiments, they will be increasing the scope and power of their own
individual action. The opportunities, which during the past few years
the reformers have enjoyed to make their personal lives more
interesting, would be nothing compared to the opportunities for all
sorts of stirring and responsible work, which would be demanded of
individuals under the proposed plan of political and economic
reorganization. The American nation would be more disinterestedly and
sincerely fulfilling its collective purpose, partly because its more
distinguished individuals had been called upon to place at the service
of their country a higher degree of energy, ability, and unselfish
devotion. If a nation, that is, is recreant to its deeper purpose,
individuals, so far as they are well educated, are educated away from
the prevailing national habits and traditions; whereas when a nation is
sincerely attempting to meet its collective responsibility, the better
individuals are inevitably educated into active participation in the
collective task.

The reader may now be prepared to understand why the American faith in
education has the appearance of being credulous and superstitious. The
good average American usually wishes to accomplish exclusively by
individual education a result which must be partly accomplished by
national education. The nation, like the individual, must go to school;
and the national school is not a lecture hall or a library. Its
schooling consists chiefly in experimental collective action aimed at
the realization of the collective purpose. If the action is not aimed at
the collective purpose, a nation will learn little even from its
successes. If its action is aimed at the collective purpose, it may
learn much even from its mistakes. No process of merely individual
education can accomplish the work of collective education, because the
nation is so much more than a group of individuals. Individuals can be
"uplifted" without "uplifting" the nation, because the nation has an
individuality of its own, which cannot be increased without the
consciousness of collective responsibilities and the collective official
attempt to redeem them. The processes of national and individual
education should, of course, parallel and supplement each other. The
individual can do much to aid national education by the single-minded
and intelligent realization of his own specific purposes; but all
individual successes will have little more than an individual interest
unless they frequently contribute to the work of national construction.
The nation can do much to aid individual education; but the best aid
within its power is to offer to the individual a really formative and
inspiring opportunity for public service. The whole round of superficial
educational machinery--books, subsidies, resolutions, lectures,
congresses--may be of the highest value, provided they are used to
digest and popularize the results of a genuine individual and national
educational experience, but when they are used, as so often at present,
merely as a substitute for well-purposed individual and national action,
they are precisely equivalent to an attempt to fly in a vacuum.

That the direct practical value of a reform movement may be equaled or
surpassed by its indirect educational value is a sufficiently familiar
idea--an idea admirably expressed ten years ago by Mr. John Jay Chapman
in the chapter on "Education" in his "Causes and Consequences." But the
idea in its familiar form is vitiated, because the educational effect of
reform is usually conceived as exclusively individual. Its effect
_must_, indeed, be considered wholly as an individual matter, just so
long as reform is interpreted merely as a process of purification. From
that point of view the collective purpose has already been fulfilled as
far as it can be fulfilled by collective organization, and the _only_
remaining method of social amelioration is that of the self-improvement
of its constituent members. As President Nicholas Murray Butler of
Columbia says, in his "True and False Democracy": "We must not lose
sight of the fact that the corporate or collective responsibility which
it (socialism) would substitute for individual initiative is only such
corporate or collective responsibility as a group of these very same
individuals could exercise. Therefore, socialism is primarily an attempt
to overcome man's individual imperfections by adding them together, in
the hope that they will cancel each other." But what is all organization
but an attempt, not to overcome man's individual imperfections by adding
them together, so much as to make use of many men's varying individual
abilities by giving each a sufficient sphere of exercise? While all men
are imperfect, they are not all imperfect to the same extent. Some have
more courage, more ability, more insight, and more training than others;
and an efficient organization can accomplish more than can a mere
collection of individuals, precisely because it may represent a standard
of performance far above that of the average individual. Its merit is
simply that of putting the collective power of the group at the service
of its ablest members; and the ablest members of the group will never
attain to an individual responsibility commensurate with their powers,
until they are enabled to work efficiently towards the redemption of the
collective responsibility. The nation gives individuality an increased
scope and meaning by offering individuals a chance for effective
service, such as they could never attain under a system of collective
irresponsibility. Thus under a system of collective responsibility the
process of social improvement is absolutely identified with that of
individual improvement. The antithesis is not between nationalism and
individualism, but between an individualism which is indiscriminate, and
an individualism which is selective.



It is, then, essential to recognize that the individual American will
never obtain a sufficiently complete chance of self-expression, until
the American nation has earnestly undertaken and measurably achieved the
realization of its collective purpose. As we shall see presently, the
cure for this individual sterility lies partly with the individual
himself or rather with the man who proposes to become an individual; and
under any plan of economic or social organization, the man who proposes
to become an individual is a condition of national as well as individual
improvement. It is none the less true that any success in the
achievement of the national purpose will contribute positively to the
liberation of the individual, both by diminishing his temptations,
improving his opportunities, and by enveloping him in an invigorating
rather than an enervating moral and intellectual atmosphere.

It is the economic individualism of our existing national system which
inflicts the most serious damage on American individuality; and American
individual achievement in politics and science and the arts will remain
partially impoverished as long as our fellow-countrymen neglect or
refuse systematically to regulate the distribution of wealth in the
national interest. I am aware, of course, that the prevailing American
conviction is absolutely contradictory of the foregoing assertion.
Americans have always associated individual freedom with the unlimited
popular enjoyment of all available economic opportunities. Yet it would
be far more true to say that the popular enjoyment of practically
unrestricted economic opportunities is precisely the condition which
makes for individual bondage. Neither does the bondage which such a
system fastens upon the individual exist only in the case of those
individuals who are victimized by the pressure of unlimited economic
competition. Such victims exist, of course, in large numbers, and they
will come to exist in still larger number hereafter; but hitherto, at
least, the characteristic vice of the American system has not been the
bondage imposed upon its victims. Much more insidious has been the
bondage imposed upon the conquerors and their camp-followers. A man's
individuality is as much compromised by success under the conditions
imposed by such a system as it is by failure. His actual occupation may
tend to make his individuality real and fruitful; but the quality of the
work is determined by a merely acquisitive motive, and the man himself
thereby usually debarred from obtaining any edifying personal
independence or any peculiar personal distinction. Different as American
business men are one from another in temperament, circumstances, and
habits, they have a way of becoming fundamentally very much alike. Their
individualities are forced into a common mold, because the ultimate
measure of the value of their work is the same, and is nothing but its
results in cash.

Consider for a moment what individuality and individual independence
really mean. A genuine individual must at least possess some special
quality which distinguishes him from other people, which unifies the
successive phases and the various aspects of his own life and which
results in personal moral freedom. In what way and to what extent does
the existing economic system contribute to the creation of such genuine
individuals? At its best it asks of every man who engages in a business
occupation that he make as much money as he can, and the only conditions
it imposes on this pursuit of money are those contained in the law of
the land and a certain conventional moral code. The pursuit of money is
to arouse a man to individual activity, and law and custom determine the
conditions to which the activity must conform. The man does not become
an individual merely by obeying the written and unwritten laws. He
becomes an individual because the desire to make money releases his
energy and intensifies his personal initiative. The kind of individuals
created by such an economic system are not distinguished one from
another by any special purpose. They are distinguished by the energy and
success whereby the common purpose of making money is accompanied and
followed. Some men show more enterprise and ingenuity in devising ways
of making money than others, or they show more vigor and zeal in taking
advantage of the ordinary methods. These men are the kind of individuals
which the existing economic system tends to encourage; and critics of
the existing system are denounced, because of the disastrous effect upon
individual initiative which would result from restricting individual
economic freedom.

But why should a man become an individual because he does what everybody
else does, only with more energy and success? The individuality so
acquired is merely that of one particle in a mass of similar particles.
Some particles are bigger than others and livelier; but from a
sufficient distance they all look alike; and in substance and meaning
they all are alike. Their individual activity and history do not make
them less alike. It merely makes them bigger or smaller, livelier or
more inert. Their distinction from their fellows is quantitative; the
unity of their various phases a matter of repetition; their independence
wholly comparative. Such men are associated with their fellows in the
pursuit of a common purpose, and they are divided from their fellows by
the energy and success with which that purpose is pursued. On the other
hand, a condition favorable to genuine individuality would be one in
which men were divided from one another by special purposes, and
reunited in so far as these individual purposes were excellently and
successfully achieved.

The truth is that individuality cannot be dissociated from the pursuit
of a disinterested object. It is a moral and intellectual quality, and
it must be realized by moral and intellectual means. A man achieves
individual distinction, not by the enterprise and vigor with which he
accumulates money, but by the zeal and the skill with which he pursues
an exclusive interest--an interest usually, but not necessarily,
connected with his means of livelihood. The purpose to which he is
devoted--such, for instance, as that of painting or of running a
railroad--is not exclusive in the sense of being unique. But it becomes
exclusive for the individual who adopts it, because of the single-minded
and disinterested manner in which it is pursued. A man makes the purpose
exclusive for himself by the spirit and method in which the work is
done; and just in proportion as the work is thoroughly well done, a
man's individuality begins to take substance and form. His individual
quality does not depend merely on the display of superior enterprise
and energy, although, of course, he may and should be as enterprising
and as energetic as he can. It depends upon the actual excellence of the
work in every respect,--an excellence which can best be achieved by the
absorbing and exclusive pursuit of that alone. A man's individuality is
projected into his work. He does not stop when he has earned enough
money, and he does not cease his improvements when they cease to bring
in an immediate return. He is identified with his job, and by means of
that identification his individuality becomes constructive. His
achievement, just because of its excellence, has an inevitable and an
unequivocal social value. The quality of a man's work reunites him with
his fellows. He may have been in appearance just as selfish as a man who
spends most of his time in making money, but if his work has been
thoroughly well done, he will, in making himself an individual, have
made an essential contribution to national fulfillment.

Of course, a great deal of very excellent work is accomplished under the
existing economic system; and by means of such work many a man becomes
more or less of an individual. But in so far as such is the case, it is
the work which individualizes and not the unrestricted competitive
pursuit of money. In so far as the economic motive prevails,
individuality is not developed; it is stifled. The man whose motive is
that of money-making will not make the work any more excellent than is
demanded by the largest possible returns; and frequently the largest
possible returns are to be obtained by indifferent work or by work which
has absolutely no social value. The ordinary mercenary purpose always
compels a man to stop at a certain point, and consider something else
than the excellence of his achievement. It does not make the individual
independent, except in so far as independence is merely a matter of cash
in the bank; and for every individual on whom it bestows excessive
pecuniary independence, there are many more who are by that very
circumstance denied any sort of liberation. Even pecuniary independence
is usually purchased at the price of moral and intellectual bondage.
Such genuine individuality as can be detected in the existing social
system is achieved not because of the prevailing money-making motive,
but in spite thereof.

The ordinary answer to such criticisms is that while the existing
system may have many faults, it certainly has proved an efficient means
of releasing individual energy; whereas the exercise of a positive
national responsibility for the wholesome distribution of wealth would
tend to deprive the individual of any sufficient initiative. The claim
is that the money-making motive is the only one which will really arouse
the great majority of men, and to weaken it would be to rob the whole
economic system of its momentum. Just what validity this claim may have
cannot, with our present experience, be definitely settled. That to
deprive individuals suddenly of the opportunities they have so long
enjoyed would be disastrous may be fully admitted. It may also be
admitted that any immediate and drastic attempt to substitute for the
present system a national regulation of the distribution of wealth or a
national responsibility for the management even of monopolies or
semi-monopolies would break down and would do little to promote either
individual or social welfare. But to conclude from any such admissions
that a systematic policy of promoting individual and national
amelioration should be abandoned in wholly unnecessary. That the
existing system has certain practical advantages, and is a fair
expression of the average moral standards of to-day is not only its
chief merit, but also its chief and inexcusable defect. What a
democratic nation must do is not to accept human nature as it is, but to
move in the direction of its improvement. The question it must answer
is: How can it contribute to the increase of American individuality? The
defender of the existing system must be able to show either (1) that it
does contribute to the increase of American individuality; or that (2)
whatever its limitations, the substitution of some better system is

Of course, a great many defenders of the existing system will
unequivocally declare that it does contribute effectually to the
increase of individuality, and it is this defense which is most
dangerous, because it is due, not to any candid consideration of the
facts, but to unreasoning popular prejudice and personal
self-justification. The existing system contributes to the increase of
individuality only in case individuality is deprived of all serious
moral and intellectual meaning. In order to sustain their assertion they
must define individuality, not as a living ideal, but as the
psychological condition produced by any individual action. In the light
of such a definition every action performed by an individual would
contribute to individuality; and, conversely, every action performed by
the state, which conceivably could be left to individuals, would
diminish individuality. Such a conception derives from the early
nineteenth century principles of an essential opposition between the
state and the individual; and it is a deduction from the common
conception of democracy as nothing but a finished political organization
in which the popular will prevails. As applied in the traditional
American system this conception of individuality has resulted in the
differentiation of an abundance of raw individual material, but the raw
material has been systematically encouraged to persist only on condition
that it remained undeveloped. Properly speaking, it has not encouraged
individualism at all. Individuality is necessarily based on genuine
discrimination. It has encouraged particularism. While the particles
have been roused into activity, they all remain dominated by
substantially the same forces of attraction and repulsion. But in order
that one of the particles may fulfill the promise of a really separate
existence, he must pursue some special interest of his own. In that way
he begins to realize his individuality, and in realizing his
individuality he is coming to occupy a special niche in the national
structure. A national structure which encourages individuality as
opposed to mere particularity is one which creates innumerable special
niches, adapted to all degrees and kinds of individual development. The
individual becomes a nation in miniature, but devoted to the loyal
realization of a purpose peculiar to himself. The nation becomes an
enlarged individual whose special purpose is that of human amelioration,
and in whose life every individual should find some particular but
essential function.

It surely cannot be seriously claimed that the improvement of the
existing economic organization for the sake of contributing to the
increase of such genuine individuals is impossible. If genuine
individuality depends upon the pursuit of an exclusive interest,
promoted most certainly and completely by a disinterested motive, it
must be encouraged by enabling men so far as possible to work from
disinterested motives. Doubtless this is a difficult, but it is not an
impossible task. It cannot be completely achieved until the whole basis
of economic competition is changed. At present men compete chiefly for
the purpose of securing the most money to spend or to accumulate. They
must in the end compete chiefly for the purpose of excelling in the
quality of their work that of other men engaged in a similar occupation.
And there are assuredly certain ways in which the state can diminish the
undesirable competition and encourage the desirable competition.

The several economic reforms suggested in the preceding chapter would,
so far as they could be successfully introduced, promote more
disinterested economic work. These reforms would not, of course,
entirely do away with the influence of selfish acquisitive motives in
the economic field, because such motives must remain powerful as long as
private property continues to have a public economic function. But they
would at least diminish the number of cases in which the influence of
the mercenary motive made against rather than for excellence of work.
The system which most encourages mere cupidity is one which affords too
many opportunities for making "easy money," and our American system has,
of course, been peculiarly prolific of such opportunities. As long as
individuals are allowed to accumulate money from mines, urban real
estate, municipal franchises, or semi-monopolies of any kind, just to
that extent will the economic system of the country be poisoned, and its
general efficiency impaired. Men will inevitably seek to make money in
the easiest possible way, and as long as such easy ways exist fewer
individuals will accept cordially the necessity of earning their living
by the sheer excellence of achievement. On the other hand, in case such
opportunities of making money without earning it can be eliminated,
there will be a much closer correspondence than there is at present
between the excellence of the work and the reward it would bring. Such a
correspondence would, of course, be far from exact. In all petty kinds
of business innumerable opportunities would still exist of earning more
money either by disregarding the quality of the work or sometimes by
actually lowering it. But at any rate it would be work which would earn
money, and not speculation or assiduous repose in an easy chair.

In the same way, just in so far as industry became organized under
national control for the public benefit, there would be a much closer
correspondence between the quality of the work and the amount of the
reward. In a well-managed corporation a man is promoted because he does
good work, and has shown himself capable of assuming larger
responsibilities and exercising more power. His promotion brings with it
a larger salary, and the chance of obtaining a larger salary doubtless
has much to do with the excellence of the work; but at all events a man
is not rewarded for doing bad work or for doing no work at all. The
successful employee of a corporation has not become disinterested in his
motives. Presumably he will not do any more work than will contribute to
his personal advancement; and if the standard of achievement in his
office is at all relaxed, he will not be kept up to the mark by an
exclusive and disinterested devotion to the work itself. Still, under
such conditions a man might well become better than his own motives.
Whenever the work itself was really interesting, he might become
absorbed in it by the very momentum of his habitual occupation, and this
would be particularly the case provided his work assumed a technical
character. In that case he would have to live up to the standard, not
merely of an office, but of a trade, a profession, a craft, an art, or a
science; and if those technical standards were properly exacting, he
would be kept up to the level of his best work by a motive which had
almost become disinterested. He could not fall below the standard, even
though he derived no personal profit from striving to live up to it,
because the traditions and the honor of his craft would not let him.

The proposed economic policy of reform, in so far as it were successful,
would also tend to stimulate labor to more efficiency, and to diminish
its grievances. The state would be lending assistance to the effort of
the workingman to raise his standard of living, and to restrict the
demoralizing effect of competition among laborers who cannot afford to
make a stand on behalf of their own interest. It should, consequently,
increase the amount of economic independence enjoyed by the average
laborer, diminish his "class consciousness" by doing away with his class
grievances, and intensify his importance to himself as an individual. It
would in every way help to make the individual workingman more of an
individual. His class interest would be promoted by the nation in so
far as such promotion was possible, and could be adjusted to a general
policy of national economic construction. His individual interest would
be left in his own charge; but he would have much more favorable
opportunities of redeeming the charge by the excellence of his
individual work than he has under the existing system. His condition
would doubtless still remain in certain respects unsatisfactory, for the
purpose of a democratic nation must remain unfulfilled just in so far as
the national organization of labor does not enable all men to compete on
approximately equal terms for all careers. But a substantial step would
be made towards its improvement, and the road marked, perhaps, for still
further advance.

Again, however, must the reader be warned that the important thing is
the constructive purpose, and not the means proposed for its
realization. Whenever the attempt at its realization is made, it is
probable that other and unforeseen measures will be found necessary; and
even if a specific policy proposed were successfully tried, this would
constitute merely an advance towards the ultimate end. The ultimate end
is the complete emancipation of the individual, and that result depends
upon his complete disinterestedness. He must become interested
exclusively in the excellence of his work; and he can never become
disinterestedly interested in his work as long as heavy responsibilities
and high achievements are supposed to be rewarded by increased pay. The
effort equitably to adjust compensation to earnings is ultimately not
only impossible, but undesirable, because it necessarily would foul the
whole economic organization--so far as its efficiency depended on a
generous rivalry among individuals. The only way in which work can be
made entirely disinterested is to adjust its compensation to the needs
of a normal and wholesome human life.

Any substantial progress towards the attainment of complete individual
disinterestedness is far beyond the reach of contemporary collective
effort, but such disinterestedness should be clearly recognized as the
economic condition both of the highest fulfillment which democracy can
bestow upon the individual and of a thoroughly wholesome democratic
organization. Says Mr. John Jay Chapman in the chapter on "Democracy,"
in his "Causes and Consequences": "It is thought that the peculiar merit
of democracy lies in this: that it gives every man a chance to pursue
his own ends. The reverse is true. The merit lies in the assumption
imposed upon every man that he shall serve his fellow-men.... The
concentration of every man on his own interests has been the danger and
not the safety of democracy, for democracy contemplates that every man
shall think first of the state and next of himself.... Democracy assumes
perfection in human nature." But men will always continue chiefly to
pursue their own private ends as long as those ends are recognized by
the official national ideal as worthy of perpetuation and encouragement.
If it be true that democracy is based upon the assumption that every man
shall serve his fellow-men, the organization of democracy should be
gradually adapted to that assumption. The majority of men cannot be made
disinterested for life by exhortation, by religious services, by any
expenditure of subsidized words, or even by a grave and manifest public
need. They can be made permanently unselfish only by being helped to
become disinterested in their individual purposes, and how can they be
disinterested except in a few little spots as long as their daily
occupation consists of money seeking and spending in conformity with a
few written and unwritten rules? In the complete democracy a man must in
some way be made to serve the nation in the very act of contributing to
his own individual fulfillment. Not until his personal action is
dictated by disinterested motives can there be any such harmony between
private and public interests. To ask an individual citizen continually
to sacrifice his recognized private interest to the welfare of his
countrymen is to make an impossible demand, and yet just such a
continual sacrifice is apparently required of an individual in a
democratic state. The only entirely satisfactory solution of the
difficulty is offered by the systematic authoritative transformation of
the private interest of the individual into a disinterested devotion to
a special object.

American public opinion has not as yet begun to understand the relation
between the process of national education by means of a patient attempt
to realize the national purpose and the corresponding process of
individual emancipation and growth. It still believes that democracy is
a happy device for evading collective responsibilities by passing them
on to the individual; and as long as this belief continues to prevail,
the first necessity of American educational advance is the arousing of
the American intellectual conscience. Behind the tradition of national
irresponsibility is the still deeper tradition of intellectual
insincerity in political matters. Americans are almost as much afraid of
consistent and radical political thinking as are the English, and with
nothing like as much justification. Jefferson offered them a seductive
example of triumphant intellectual dishonesty, and of the sacrifice of
theory to practice, whenever such a sacrifice was convenient.
Jefferson's example has been warmly approved by many subsequent
intellectual leaders. Before Emerson and after, mere consistency has
been stigmatized as the preoccupation of petty minds; and our American
superiority to the necessity of making ideas square with practice, or
one idea with another, has been considered as an exhibition of
remarkable political common sense. The light-headed Frenchmen really
believed in their ideas, and fell thereby into a shocking abyss of
anarchy and fratricidal bloodshed, whereas we have avoided any similar
fate by preaching a "noble national theory" and then practicing it just
as far as it suited our interests or was not too costly in time and
money. No doubt, we also have had our domestic difficulties, and were
obliged to shed a good deal of American blood, because we resolutely
refused to believe that human servitude was not entirely compatible with
the loftiest type of democracy; but then, the Civil War might have been
avoided if the Abolitionists had not erroneously insisted on being
consistent. The way to escape similar trouble in the future is to go on
preaching ideality, and to leave its realization wholly to the
individual. We can then be "uplifted" by the words, while the resulting
deeds cannot do us, as individuals, any harm. We can continue to
celebrate our "noble national theory" and preserve our perfect
democratic system until the end of time without making any of the
individual sacrifices or taking any of the collective risks, inseparable
from a systematic attempt to make our words good.

The foregoing state of mind is the great obstacle to the American
national advance; and its exposure and uprooting is the primary need of
American education. In agitating against the traditional disregard of
our full national responsibility, a critic will do well to dispense with
the caution proper to the consideration of specific practical problems.
A radical theory does not demand in the interest of consistency an
equally radical action. It only demands a sincere attempt to push the
application of the theory as far as conditions will permit, and the
employment of means sufficient probably to accomplish the immediate
purpose. But in the endeavor to establish and popularize his theory, a
radical critic cannot afford any similar concessions. His own opinions
can become established only by the displacement of the traditional
opinions; and the way to displace a traditional error is not to be
compromising and conciliatory, but to be as uncompromising and as
irritating as one's abilities and one's vision of the truth will permit.
The critic in his capacity as agitator is living in a state of war with
his opponents; and the ethics of warfare are not the ethics of
statesmanship. Public opinion can be reconciled to a constructive
national programme only by the agitation of what is from the traditional
standpoint a body of revolutionary ideas.

In vigorously agitating such a body of revolutionary ideas, the critic
would be doing more than performing a desirable public service. He would
be vindicating his own individual intellectual interest. The integrity
and energy of American intellectual life has been impaired for
generations by the tradition of national irresponsibility. Such
irresponsibility necessarily implies a sacrifice of individual
intellectual and moral interests to individual and popular economic
interests. It could not persist except by virtue of intellectual and
moral conformity. The American intellectual habit has on the whole been
just about as vigorous and independent as that of the domestic animals.
The freedom of opinion of which we boast has consisted for the most part
in uttering acceptable commonplaces with as much defiant conviction as
if we were uttering the most daring and sublimest heresies. In making
this parade of the uniform of intellectual independence, the American is
not consciously insincere. He is prepared to do battle for his
convictions, but his really fundamental convictions he shares with
everybody else. His differences with his fellow-countrymen are those of
interest and detail. When he breaks into a vehement proclamation of his
faith, he is much like a bull, who has broken out of his stall, and goes
snorting around the barnyard, tossing everybody within reach of his
horns. A bull so employed might well consider that he was offering the
world a fine display of aggressive individuality, whereas he had in
truth been behaving after the manner of all bulls from the dawn of
domestication. No doubt he is quite capable of being a dangerous
customer, in case he can reach anybody with his horns; but on the other
hand how meekly can he be led back into the stall by the simple device
of attaching a ring to his nose. His individuality always has a tender
spot, situated in much the same neighborhood as his personal economic
interests. If this tender spot is merely irritated, it will make him
rage; but when seized with a firm grip he loses all his defiance and
becomes as aggressive an individual as a good milch cow.

The American intellectual interest demands, consequently, a different
sort of assertion from the American economic or political interest.
Economically and politically the need is for constructive regulation,
implying the imposition of certain fruitful limitations upon traditional
individual freedom. But the national intellectual development demands
above all individual emancipation. American intelligence has still to
issue its Declaration of Independence. It has still to proclaim that in
a democratic system the intelligence has a discipline, an interest, and
a will of its own, and that this special discipline and interest call
for a new conception both of individual and of national development. For
the time being the freedom which Americans need is the freedom of
thought. The energy they need is the energy of thought. The moral unity
they need cannot be obtained without intensity and integrity of thought.



Americans believe, of course, that they enjoy perfect freedom of
opinion, and so they do in form. There is no legal encouragement of any
one set of opinions. There is no legal discouragement of another set of
opinions. They have denied intellectual freedom to themselves by
methods very much more insidious than those employed by a despotic
government. A national tradition has been established which prevents
individuals from desiring freedom; and if they should desire and obtain
it, they are prevented from using it. The freedom of American speech and
thought has not been essentially different from the freedom of speech
which a group of prisoners might enjoy during the term of their
imprisonment. The prisoners could, of course, think and talk much as
they pleased, but there was nobody but themselves to hear; and in the
absence both of an adequate material, discipline, and audience, both the
words and thoughts were without avail. The truth is, of course, that
intellectual individuality and independence were sacrificed for the
benefit of social homogeneity and the quickest possible development of
American economic opportunities; and in this way a vital relation has
been established for Americans between the assertion of intellectual
independence or moral individuality and the adoption of a nationalized
economic and political system.

During the Middle Period American individual intelligence did, indeed,
struggle gallantly to attain freedom. The intellectual ferment at that
time was more active and more general than it is to-day. During the
three decades before the war, a remarkable outbreak of heresy occurred
all over the East and middle West. Every convention of American life was
questioned, except those unconscious conventions of feeling and thought
which pervaded the intellectual and moral atmosphere. The Abolitionist
agitation was the one practical political result of this ferment, but
many of these free-thinkers wished to emancipate the whites as well as
the blacks. They fearlessly challenged substantially all the established
institutions of society. The institutions of marriage and the state
fared frequently as ill as did property and the church. Radical,
however, as they were in thought, they were by no means revolutionary in
action. The several brands of heresy differed too completely one from
another to be melted into a single political agitation and programme.
The need for action spent itself in the formation of socialistic
communities of the most varied kind, the great majority of which were
soon either disbanded or transformed. But whatever its limitations the
ferment was symptomatic of a genuine revolt of the American spirit
against the oppressive servitude of the individual intelligence to the
social will, demanded by the popular democratic system and tradition.

The revolt, however, with all the sincere enthusiasm it inspired, was
condemned to sterility. It accomplished nothing and could accomplish
nothing for society, because it sought by individual or unofficial
associated action results which demanded official collective action; and
it accomplished little even for the individual, because it was not the
outcome of any fruitful individual discipline. The emancipated idea was
usually defined by seeking the opposite of the conventional idea.
Individuality was considered to be a matter of being somehow and anyhow
different from other people. There was no authentic intellectual
discipline behind the agitation. The pioneer democrat with all his
limitations embodied the only living national body of opinion, and he
remained untainted by this outburst of heresy. He deprived it of all
vitality by depriving its separate explosions, Abolitionism excepted, of
all serious attention. He crushed it far more effectually by
indifference than he would have by persecution. When the shock of the
Civil War aroused Americans to a realization of the unpleasant political
realities sometimes associated with the neglect of a "noble national
theory," the ferment subsided without leaving behind so much as a loaf
of good white bread.

For practical political purposes it exhausted itself, as I have said, in
Abolitionism, and in that movement both its strength and weakness are
writ plain. Its revolt on behalf of emancipation was courageous and
sincere. The patriotism which inspired it recognized the need of
justifying its protestantism by a better conception of democracy. But
the heresy was as incoherent and as credulous as the antithetic
orthodoxy. It sought to accomplish an intellectual revolution without
organizing either an army or an armament--just as the pioneer democrat
expected to convert untutored enthusiasm into acceptable technical work,
and a popular political and economic atomism into a substantially
socialized community. In its meaning and effect, consequently, the
revolt was merely negative and anti-national. It served a constructive
democratic purpose only by the expensive and dubious means of
instigating a Civil War. If any of the other heresies of the period, as
well as Abolitionism, had developed into an effective popular agitation,
they could have obtained a similar success only by means of incurring a
similar danger. The intellectual ideals of the movement were not
educational, and its declaration of intellectual independence issued in
as sterile a programme for the Republic of American thought as did the
Declaration of Political Independence for the American national

In truth all these mid-century American heretics were not heretics at
all in relation to really stupefying and perverting American tradition.
They were sturdily rebellious against all manner of respectable methods,
ideas, and institutions, but none of them dreamed of protesting against
the real enemy of American intellectual independence. They never dreamed
of associating the moral and intellectual emancipation of the individual
with the conscious fulfillment of the American national purpose and with
the patient and open-eyed individual and social discipline thereby
demanded. They all shared the illusion of the pioneers that somehow a
special Providential design was effective on behalf of the American
people, which permitted them as individuals and as a society to achieve
their purposes by virtue of good intentions, exuberant enthusiasm, and
enlightened selfishness. The New World and the new American idea had
released them from the bonds in which less fortunate Europeans were
entangled. Those bonds were not to be considered as the terms under
which excellent individual and social purposes were necessarily to be
achieved. They were bad habits, which the dead past had imposed upon the
inhabitants of the Old World, and from which Americans could be
emancipated by virtue of their abundant faith in human nature and the
boundless natural opportunities of the new continent.

Thus the American national ideal of the Middle Period was essentially
geographical. The popular thinkers of that day were hypnotized by the
reiterated suggestion of a new American world. Their fellow-countrymen
had obtained and were apparently making good use of a wholly
unprecedented amount of political and economic freedom; and they jumped
to the conclusion that the different disciplinary methods which limited
both individual and social action in Europe were unnecessary. Just as
the Jacksonian Democracy had finally vindicated American political
independence by doing away with the remnants of our earlier political
colonialism, so American moral and intellectual independence demanded a
similar vindication. This geographical protestantism was in a measure
provoked, if not justified, by the habit of colonial dependence upon
Europe in matters of opinion, which so many well-educated Americans of
that period continued to cherish. But it was based upon the illusion
that the economic and social conditions of the Middle Period, which
favored temporarily a mixture of faith and irresponsibility, freedom and
formlessness, would persist and could be translated into terms of
individual intellectual and moral discipline. In truth, it was, of
course, a great mistake to conceive Americanism as intellectually and
morally a species of Newer-Worldliness. A national intellectual ideal
did not divide us from Europe any more than did a national political
ideal. In both cases national independence had no meaning except in a
system of international, intellectual, moral, and political relations.
American national independence was to be won, not by means of a perverse
opposition to European intellectual and moral influence, but by a
positive and a thorough-going devotion to our own national democratic

The national intellectual ideal could afford to be as indifferent to the
sources of American intellectual life as the American political ideal
was to the sources of American citizenship. The important thing was and
is, not where our citizens or our special disciplinary ideals come from,
but what use we make of them. Just as economic and political Americanism
has been broad enough and vital enough to make a place in the American
social economy for the hordes of European immigrants with their many
diverse national characteristics, so the intellectual basis of
Americanism must be broad enough to include and vigorous enough to
assimilate the special ideals and means of discipline necessary to every
kind of intellectual or moral excellence. The technical ideals and
standards which the typical American of the Middle Period instinctively
under-valued are neither American nor European. They are merely the
special forms whereby the several kinds of intellectual eminence are to
be obtained. They belong to the nature of the craft. Those forms and
standards were never sufficiently naturalized in America during the
Colonial Period, because the economic and social conditions of the time
did not justify such naturalization. The appropriate occasion for the
transfer was postponed until after American political independence had
been secured; and when occasion did not arise, the naturalness of the
transfer was perverted and obscured by political preconceptions.

The foregoing considerations throw a new light upon the mistake made by
the American heretics of the Middle Period. In so far as their assertion
of American intellectual independence was negative, it should not have
been a protest against "feudalism," social classification, social and
individual discipline, approved technical methods, or any of those
social forms and intellectual standards which so many Americans vaguely
believed to be exclusively European. It should have been a protest
against a sterile and demoralizing Americanism--the Americanism of
national irresponsibility and indiscriminate individualism. The bondage
from which Americans needed, and still need, emancipation is not from
Europe, but from the evasions, the incoherence, the impatience, and the
easy-going conformity of their own intellectual and moral traditions. We
do not have to cross the Atlantic in order to hunt for the enemies of
American national independence and fulfillment. They sit at our
political fireside and toast their feet on its coals. They poison
American patriotic feeling until it becomes, not a leaven, but a kind of
national gelatine. They enshrine this American democratic ideal in a
temple of canting words which serves merely as a cover for a religion of
personal profit. American moral and intellectual emancipation can be
achieved only by a victory over the ideas, the conditions, and the
standards which make Americanism tantamount to collective
irresponsibility and to the moral and intellectual subordination of the
individual to a commonplace popular average.

The heretics of the Middle Period were not cowardly, but they were
intellectually irresponsible, undisciplined, and inexperienced. Sharing,
as they did, most of the deeper illusions of their time, they did not
vindicate their own individual intellectual independence, and they
contributed little or nothing to American national intellectual
independence. With the exception of a few of the men of letters who had
inherited a formative local tradition, their own personal careers were
examples not of gradual individual fulfillment, but at best of
repetition and at worst of degeneracy. Like the most brilliant
contemporary Whig politicians, such as Henry Clay and Daniel Webster,
their intellectual individuality was gradually cheapened by the manner
in which it was expressed; and it is this fact which makes the case of
Lincoln, both as a politician and a thinker, so unique and so
extraordinary. The one public man of this period who did impose upon
himself a patient and a severe intellectual and moral discipline, who
really did seek the excellent use of his own proper tools, is the man
who preeminently attained national intellectual and moral stature. The
difference in social value between Lincoln and, say, William Lloyd
Garrison can be measured by the difference in moral and intellectual
discipline to which each of these men submitted. Lincoln sedulously
turned to account every intellectual and moral opportunity which his
life afforded. Garrison's impatient temper and unbalanced mind made him
the enthusiastic advocate of a few distorted and limited ideas. The
consequence was that Garrison, although apparently an arch-heretic, was
in reality the victim of the sterile American convention which makes
willful enthusiasm, energy, and good intentions a sufficient substitute
for necessary individual and collective training. Lincoln, on the other
hand, was in his whole moral and intellectual make-up a living protest
against the aggressive, irresponsible, and merely practical Americanism
of his day; while at the same time in the greatness of his love and
understanding he never allowed his distinction to divide him from his
fellow-countrymen. His was the unconscious and constructive heresy which
looked in the direction of national intellectual independence and
national moral union and good faith.



We are now in a position to define more clearly just how the American
individual can assert his independence, and how in asserting his
independence he can contribute to American national fulfillment. He
cannot make any effective advance towards national fulfillment merely by
educating himself and his fellow-countrymen as individuals to a higher
intellectual and moral level, because an essential condition of really
edifying individual education is the gradual process of collective
education by means of collective action and formative collective
discipline. On the other hand, this task of collective education is far
from being complete in itself. It necessarily makes far greater demands
upon the individual than does a system of comparative collective
irresponsibility. It implies the selection of peculiarly competent,
energetic, and responsible individuals to perform the peculiarly
difficult and exacting parts in a socially constructive drama; and it
implies, as a necessary condition of such leadership, a progressively
higher standard of individual training and achievement, unofficial as
well as official, throughout the whole community. The process of
educating men of moral and intellectual stature sufficient for the
performance of important constructive work cannot be disentangled from
the process of national fulfillment by means of intelligent collective
action. American nationality will never be fulfilled except under the
leadership of such men; and the American nation will never obtain the
necessary leadership unless it seeks seriously the redemption of its
national responsibility.

Such being the situation in general, how can the duty and the
opportunity of the individual at the present time best be defined? Is he
obliged to sit down and wait until the edifying, economic, political,
and social transformation has taken place? Or can he by his own
immediate behavior do something effectual both to obtain individual
emancipation and to accelerate the desirable process of social
reconstruction? This question has already been partially answered by the
better American individual; and it is, I believe, being answered in the
right way. The means which he is taking to reach a more desirable
condition of individual independence, and inferentially to add a little
something to the process of national fulfillment, consist primarily and
chiefly in a thoroughly zealous and competent performance of his own
particular job; and in taking this means of emancipation and fulfillment
he is both building better and destroying better than he knows.

The last generation of Americans has taken a better method of asserting
their individual independence than that practiced by the heretics of the
Middle Period. Those who were able to gain leadership in business and
politics sought to justify their success by building up elaborate
industrial and political organizations which gave themselves and their
successors peculiar individual opportunities. On the other hand, the men
of more specifically intellectual interests tacitly abandoned the
Newer-Worldliness of their predecessors and began unconsciously but
intelligently to seek the attainment of some excellence in the
performance of their own special work. In almost every case they
discovered that the first step in the acquisition of the better
standards of achievement was to go abroad. If their interests were
scholarly or scientific, they were likely to matriculate at one of the
German universities for the sake of studying under some eminent
specialist. If they were painters, sculptors, or architects, they
flocked to Paris, as the best available source of technical instruction
in the arts. Wherever the better schools were supposed to be, there the
American pupils gathered; and the consequence was during the last
quarter of the nineteenth century a steady and considerable improvement
in the standard of special work and the American schools of special
discipline. In this way there was domesticated a necessary condition and
vehicle of the liberation and assertion of American individuality.

A similar transformation has been taking place in the technical aspects
of American industry. In this field the individual has not been obliged
to make his own opportunities to the same extent as in business,
politics, and the arts. The opportunities were made for him by the
industrial development of the country. Efficient special work soon
became absolutely necessary in the various branches of manufacture, in
mining, and in the business of transportation; and in the beginning it
was frequently necessary to import from abroad expert specialists. The
technical schools of the country were wholly inadequate to supply the
demand either for the quantity or the quality of special work needed.
When, for instance, the construction of railroads first began, the only
good engineering school in the country was West Point, and the
consequence was that many army officers became railroad engineers. But
little by little the amount and the standard of technical instruction
improved; while at the same time the greater industrial organizations
themselves trained their younger employees with ever increasing
efficiency. Of late years even farming has become an occupation in which
special knowledge is supposed to have certain advantages. In every kind
of practical work specialization, founded on a more or less arduous
course of preparation, is coming to prevail; and in this way
individuals, possessing the advantages of the necessary gifts and
discipline, are obtaining definite and stimulating opportunities for
personal efficiency and independence.

It would be a grave mistake to conclude, however, that the battle is
already won--that the individual has already obtained in any department
of practical or intellectual work sufficient personal independence or
sufficiently edifying opportunities. The comparatively zealous and
competent individual performer does not, of course, feel so much of an
alien in his social surroundings as he did a generation or two ago. He
can usually obtain a certain independence of position, a certain amount
of intelligent and formative appreciation, and a sufficiently
substantial measure of reward. But he has still much to contend against
in his social, economic, and intellectual environment. His independence
is precarious. In some cases it is won with too little effort. In other
cases it can be maintained only at too great a cost. His rewards, if
substantial, can be obtained as readily by sacrificing the integrity of
his work as by remaining faithful thereto. The society in which he
lives, and which gives him his encouragement and support, has the
limitations of a clique. Its encouragement is too conscious; its support
too willful. Beyond a certain point its encouragement becomes indeed
relaxing rather than stimulating, and the aspiring individual is placed
in the situation of having most to fear from the inhabitants of his own
household. His intellectual and moral environment is lukewarm. He is
encouraged to be an individual, but not too much of an individual. He is
encouraged to do good work, but not to do always and uncompromisingly
his best work. He is trusted, but he is not trusted enough. He believes
in himself, but he does not believe as much in himself and in his
mission as his own highest achievement demands. He is not sufficiently
empowered by the idea that just in so far as he does his best work, and
only his best work, he is contributing most to national as well as
personal fulfillment.

What the better American individual particularly needs, then, is a
completer faith in his own individual purpose and power--a clearer
understanding of his own individual opportunities. He needs to do what
he has been doing, only more so, and with the conviction that thereby he
is becoming not less but more of an American. His patriotism, instead of
being something apart from his special work, should be absolutely
identified therewith, because no matter how much the eminence of his
personal achievement may temporarily divide him from his
fellow-countrymen, he is, by attaining to such an eminence, helping in
the most effectual possible way to build the only fitting habitation for
a sincere democracy. He is to make his contribution to individual
improvement primarily by making himself more of an individual. The
individual as well as the nation must be educated and "uplifted" chiefly
by what the individual can do for himself. Education, like charity,
should begin at home.

An individual can, then, best serve the cause of American individuality
by effectually accomplishing his own individual emancipation--that is,
by doing his own special work with ability, energy, disinterestedness,
and excellence. The scope of the individual's opportunities at any one
time will depend largely upon society, but whatever they amount to, the
individual has no excuse for not making the most of them. Before he can
be of any service to his fellows, he must mold himself into the
condition and habit of being a good instrument. On this point there can
be no compromise. Every American who has the opportunity of doing
faithful and fearless work, and who proves faithless to it, belongs to
the perfect type of the individual anti-democrat. By cheapening his own
personality he has cheapened the one constituent of the national life
over which he can exercise most effectual control; and thereafter, no
matter how superficially patriotic and well-intentioned he may be, his
words and his actions are tainted and are in some measure corrupting in
their social effect.

A question will, however, immediately arise as to the nature of this
desirable individual excellence. It is all very well to say that a man
should do his work competently, faithfully, and fearlessly, but how are
we to define the standard of excellence? When a man is seeking to do his
best, how shall he go about it? Success in any one of these individual
pursuits demands that the individual make some sort of a personal
impression. He must seek according to the nature of the occupation a
more or less numerous popular following. The excellence of a painter's
work does not count unless he can find at least a small group of patrons
who will admire and buy it. The most competent architect can do nothing
for himself or for other people unless he attracts clients who will
build his paper houses. The playwright needs even a larger following. If
his plays are to be produced, he must manage to amuse and to interest
thousands of people. And the politician most of all depends upon a
numerous and faithful body of admirers. Of what avail would his
independence and competence be in case there were nobody to accept his
leadership? It is not enough, consequently, to assert that the
individual must emancipate himself by means of excellent and
disinterested work. His emancipation has no meaning, his career as an
individual no power, except with the support of a larger or smaller
following. Admitting the desirability of excellent work, what kind of
workmanlike excellence will make the individual not merely independent
and incorruptible, but powerful? In what way and to what end shall he
use the instrument, which he is to forge and temper, for his own
individual benefit and hence for that of society?

These questions involve a real difficulty, and before we are through
they must assuredly be answered; but they are raised at the present
stage of the discussion for the purpose of explicitly putting them aside
rather than for the purpose of answering them. The individual
instruments must assuredly be forged and tempered to some good use, but
before we discuss their employment let us be certain of the instruments
themselves. Whatever that employment may be and however much of a
following its attainment may demand, the instrument must at any rate be
thoroughly well made, and in the beginning it is necessary to insist
upon merely instrumental excellence, because the American habit and
tradition is to estimate excellence almost entirely by results. If the
individual will only obtain his following, there need be no close
scrutiny as to his methods. The admirable architect is he who designs
an admirably large number of buildings. The admirable playwright is he
who by whatever means makes the hearts of his numerous audiences
palpitate. The admirable politician is he who succeeds somehow or anyhow
in gaining the largest area of popular confidence. This tradition is the
most insidious enemy of American individual independence and
fulfillment. Instead of declaring, as most Americans do, that a man may,
if he can, do good work, but that he _must_ create a following, we
should declare that a man may, if he can, obtain a following, but that
he _must_ do good work. When he has done good work, he may not have done
all that is required of him; but if he fails to do good work, nothing
else counts. The individual democrat who has had the chance and who has
failed in that essential respect is an individual sham, no matter how
much of a shadow his figure casts upon the social landscape.

The good work which for his own benefit the individual is required to
do, means primarily technically competent work. The man who has
thoroughly mastered the knowledge and the craft essential to his own
special occupation is by way of being the well-forged and well-tempered
instrument. Little by little there have been developed in relation to
all the liberal arts and occupations certain tested and approved
technical methods. The individual who proposes to occupy himself with
any one of these arts must first master the foundation of knowledge, of
formal traditions, and of manual practice upon which the superstructure
is based. The danger that a part of this fund of technical knowledge and
practice may at any particular time be superannuated must be admitted;
but the validity of the general rule is not affected thereby. The most
useful and effective dissenters are those who were in the beginning
children of the Faith. The individual who is too weak to assert himself
with the help of an established technical tradition is assuredly too
weak to assert himself without it. The authoritative technical tradition
associated with any one of the arts of civilization is merely the net
result of the accumulated experience of mankind in a given region. That
experience may or may not have been exhaustive or adequately defined;
but in any event its mastery by the individual is merely a matter of
personal and social economy. It helps to prevent the individual from
identifying his whole personal career with unnecessary mistakes. It
provides him with the most natural and serviceable vehicle for
self-expression. It supplies him with a language which reduces to the
lowest possible terms the inevitable chances of misunderstanding. It is
society's nearest approach to an authentic standard in relation to the
liberal arts and occupations; and just so far as it is authentic society
is justified in imposing it on the individual.

The perfect type of authoritative technical methods are those which
prevail among scientific men in respect to scientific work. No scientist
as such has anything to gain by the use of inferior methods or by the
production of inferior work. There is only one standard for all
scientific investigators--the highest standard; and so far as a man
falls below that standard his inferiority is immediately reflected in
his reputation. Some scientists make, of course, small contributions to
the increase of knowledge, and some make comparatively large
contributions; but just in so far as a man makes any contribution at
all, it is a real contribution, and nothing makes it real but the fact
that it is recognized. In the Hall of Science exhibitors do not get
their work hung upon the line because it tickles the public taste, or
because it is "uplifting," or because the jury is kindly and wishes to
give the exhibitor a chance to earn a little second-rate reputation. The
same standard is applied to everybody, and the jury is incorruptible.
The exhibit is nothing if not true, or by way of becoming or being
recognized as true.

A technical standard in any one of the liberal or practical arts cannot
be applied as rigorously as can the standard of scientific truth,
because the standard itself is not so authentic. In all these arts many
differences of opinion exist among masters as to the methods and forms
which should be authoritative; and in so far as such is the case, the
individual must be allowed to make many apparently arbitrary personal
choices. The fact that a man has such choices to make is the
circumstance which most clearly distinguishes the practice of an art
from that of a science, but this circumstance, instead of being an
excuse for technical irresponsibility or mere eclecticism, should, on
the contrary, stimulate the individual more completely to justify his
choice. In his work he is fighting the battle not merely of his own
personal career, but of a method, of a style, of an idea, or of an
ideal. The practice of the several arts need not suffer from diversity
of standard, provided the several separate standards are themselves
incorruptible. In all the arts--and by the arts I mean all disinterested
and liberal practical occupations--the difficulty is not that
sufficiently authoritative standards do not exist, but that they are not
applied. The standard which is applied is merely that of the
good-enough. The juries are either too kindly or too lax or too much
corrupted by the nature of their own work. They are prevented from being
incorruptible about the work of other people by a sub-conscious
apprehension of the fate of their own performances--in case similar
standards were applied to themselves. Just in so far as the second-rate
performer is allowed to acquire any standing, he inevitably enters into
a conspiracy with his fellows to discourage exhibitions of genuine and
considerable excellence, and, of course, to a certain extent he
succeeds. By the waste which he encourages of good human appreciation,
by the confusion which he introduces into the popular critical
standards, he helps to effect a popular discrimination against any
genuine superiority of achievement.

Individual independence and fulfillment is conditioned on the technical
excellence of the individual's work, because the most authentic standard
is for the time being constituted by excellence of this kind. An
authentic standard must be based either upon acquired knowledge or an
accepted ideal. Americans have no popularly accepted ideals which are
anything but an embarrassment to the aspiring individual. In the course
of time some such ideals may be domesticated--in which case the
conditions of individual excellence would be changed; but we are dealing
with the present and not with the future. Under current conditions the
only authentic standard must be based, not upon the social influence of
the work, but upon its quality; and a standard of this kind, while it
falls short of being complete, must always persist as one indispensable
condition of final excellence. The whole body of acquired technical
experience and practice has precisely the same authority as any other
body of knowledge. The respect it demands is similar to the respect
demanded by science in all its forms. In this particular case the
science is neither complete nor entirely trustworthy, but it is
sufficiently complete and trustworthy for the individual's purpose, and
can be ignored only at the price of waste, misunderstanding, and partial
inefficiency and sterility.

A standard of uncompromising technical excellence contains, however, for
the purpose of this argument, a larger meaning than that which is
usually attached to the phrase. A technically competent performance is
ordinarily supposed to mean one which displays a high degree of manual
dexterity; and a man who has acquired such a degree of dexterity is also
supposed to be the victim of his own mastery. No doubt such is
frequently the case; but in the present meaning the thoroughly competent
individual workman becomes necessarily very much more of an individual
than any man can be who is merely the creature of his own technical
facility and preoccupation. I have used the word art not in the sense
merely of fine art, but in the sense of all liberal and disinterested
practical work; and the excellent performance of that work demands
certain qualifications which are common to all the arts as well as
peculiar to the methods and materials of certain particular arts and
crafts. These qualifications are both moral and intellectual. They
require that no one shall be admitted to the ranks of thoroughly
competent performers until he is morally and intellectually, as well as
scientifically and manually, equipped for excellent work, and these
appropriate moral and intellectual standards should be applied as
incorruptibly as those born of specific technical practices.

A craftsman whose merits do not go beyond technical facility is probably
deficient in both the intellectual and moral qualities essential to good
work. The rule cannot be rigorously applied, because the boundaries
between high technical proficiency and some very special examples of
genuine mastery are often very indistinct. Still, the majority of
craftsmen who are nothing more than, manually dexterous are rarely
either sincere or disinterested in their personal attitude towards their
occupation. They have not made themselves the sort of moral instrument
which is capable of eminent achievement, and whenever unmistakable
examples of such a lack of sincerity and conviction are distinguished,
they should in the interest of a complete standard of special excellence
meet with the same reprobation as would manual incompetence. It must
not be inferred, however, that the standard of moral judgment applied to
the individual in the performance of his particular work is identical
with a comprehensive standard of moral practice. A man may be an
acceptable individual instrument in the service of certain of the arts,
even though he be in some other respects a tolerably objectionable
person. A single-minded and disinterested attempt to obtain mastery of
any particular occupation may in specific instances force a man to
neglect certain admirable and in other relations essential qualities. He
may be a faithless husband, a treacherous friend, a sturdy liar, or a
professional bankrupt, without necessarily interfering with the
excellent performance of his special job. A man who breaks a road to
individual distinction by such questionable means may always be tainted;
but he is a better public servant than would be some comparatively
impeccable nonentity. It all depends on the nature and the requirements
of the particular task, and the extent to which a man has really made
sacrifices in order to accomplish it. There are many special jobs which
absolutely demand scrupulous veracity, loyalty in a man's personal
relations, or financial integrity. The politician who ruins his career
in climbing down a waterspout, or the engineer who prevents his
employers from trusting his judgment and conscience in money matters,
cannot plead in extenuation any other sort of instrumental excellence.
They have deserved to fail, because they have trifled with their job;
and it may be added that serious moral delinquencies are usually grave
hindrances to a man's individual efficiency.

From the intellectual point of view also technical competence means
something more than manual proficiency. Just as the master must possess
those moral qualities essential to the integrity of his work, so he must
possess the corresponding intellectual qualities. All the liberal arts
require, as a condition of mastery, a certain specific and considerable
power of intelligence; and this power of intelligence is to be sharply
distinguished from all-round intellectual ability. From our present
point of view its only necessary application concerns the problems of a
man's special occupation. Every special performer needs the power of
criticising the quality and the subject-matter of his own work. Unless
he has great gifts or happens to be brought up and trained under
peculiarly propitious conditions, his first attempts to practice his
art will necessarily be experimental. He will be sure to commit many
mistakes, not merely in the choice of alternative methods and the
selection of his subject-matter, but in the extent to which he
personally can approve or disapprove of his own achievements. The
thoroughly competent performer must at least possess the intellectual
power of profiting from this experience. A candid consideration of his
own experiments must guide him in the selection of the better methods,
in the discrimination of the more appropriate subject-matter, in the
avoidance of his own peculiar failings, and in the cultivation of his
own peculiar strength. The technical career of the master is up to a
certain point always a matter of growth. The technical career of the
second-rate man is always a matter of degeneration or at best of
repetition. The former brings with it its own salient and special form
of enlightenment based upon the intellectual power to criticise his own
experience and the moral power to act on his own acquired insight. To
this extent he becomes more of a man by the very process of becoming
more of a master.

The intellectual power required to criticise one's own experience with a
formative result will of course vary considerably in different
occupations. Technical mastery of the occupation of playwriting,
criticism, or statesmanship, will require more specifically intellectual
qualities than will be demanded by the competent musician or painter.
But no matter how much intelligence may be needed, the way in which it
should be used remains the same. Mere industry, aspiration, or a fluid
run of ideas make as meager an equipment for a politician, a
philanthropist, or a critic as they would for an architect; and
absolutely the most dangerous mistake which an individual can make is
that of confusing admirable intentions expressed in some inferior manner
with genuine excellence of achievement. If such men succeed, they are
corrupting in their influence. If they fail, they learn nothing from
their failure, because they are always charging up to the public,
instead of to themselves, the responsibility for their inferiority.

The conclusion is that at the present time an individual American's
intentions and opinions are of less importance than his power of giving
them excellent and efficient expression. What the individual can do is
to make himself a better instrument for the practice of some
serviceable art; and by so doing he can scarcely avoid becoming also a
better instrument for the fulfillment of the American national Promise.
To be sure, the American national Promise demands for its fulfillment
something more than efficient and excellent individual instruments. It
demands, or will eventually demand, that these individuals shall love
and wish to serve their fellow-countrymen, and it will demand
specifically that in the service of their fellow-countrymen, they shall
reorganize their country's economic, political, and social institutions
and ideas. Just how the making of competent individual instruments will
of its own force assist the process of national reconstruction, we shall
consider presently; but the first truth to drive home is that all
political and social reorganization is a delusion, unless certain
individuals, capable of edifying practical leadership, have been
disciplined and trained; and such individuals must always and in some
measure be a product of self-discipline. While not only admitting but
proclaiming that the processes of individual and social improvement are
mutually dependent, it is equally true that the initiative cannot be
left to collective action. The individual must begin and carry as far as
he can the work of his own emancipation; and for the present he has an
excuse for being tolerably unscrupulous in so doing. By the successful
assertion of his own claim to individual distinction and eminence, he is
doing more to revolutionize and reconstruct the American democracy than
can a regiment of professional revolutionists and reformers.

Professional socialists may cherish the notion that their battle is won
as soon as they can secure a permanent popular majority in favor of a
socialistic policy; but the constructive national democrat cannot
logically accept such a comfortable illusion. The action of a majority
composed of the ordinary type of convinced socialists could and would in
a few years do more to make socialism impossible than could be
accomplished by the best and most prolonged efforts of a majority of
malignant anti-socialists. The first French republicans made by their
behavior another republic out of the question in France for almost sixty
years; and the second republican majority did not do so very much
better. When the republic came in France it was founded by men who were
not theoretical democrats, but who understood that a republic was for
the time being the kind of government best adapted to the national
French interest. These theoretical monarchists, but practical
republicans, were for the most part more able, more patriotic, and
higher-minded men than the convinced republicans; and in all probability
a third republic, started without their cooeperation, would also have
ended in a dictatorship. Any substantial advance toward social
reorganization will in the same way be forced by considerations of
public welfare on a majority of theoretical anti-socialists, because it
is among this class that the most competent and best disciplined
individuals are usually to be found. The intellectual and moral ability
required, not merely to conceive, but to realize a policy of social
reorganization, is far higher than the ability to carry on an ordinary
democratic government. When such a standard of individual competence has
been attained by a sufficient number of individuals and is applied to
economic and social questions, some attempt at social reorganization is
bound to be the result,--assuming, of course, the constructive relation
already admitted between democracy and the social problem.

The strength and the weakness of the existing economic and social system
consist, as we have observed, in the fact that it is based upon the
realities of contemporary human nature. It is the issue of a
time-honored tradition, an intense personal interest, and a method of
life so habitual that it has become almost instinctive. It cannot be
successfully attacked by any body of hostile opinion, unless such a body
of opinion is based upon a more salient individual and social interest
and a more intense and vital method of life. The only alternative
interest capable of putting up a sufficiently vigorous attack and
pushing home an occasional victory is the interest of the individual in
his own personal independence and fulfillment--an interest which, as we
have seen, can only issue from integrity and excellence of individual
achievement. An interest of this kind is bound in its social influence
to make for social reorganization, because such reorganization is in
some measure a condition and accompaniment of its own self-expression;
and the strength of its position and the superiority of its weapons are
so decisive that they should gradually force the existing system to give
way. The defenses of that system have vulnerable points; and its
defenders are disunited except in one respect. They would be able to
repel any attack delivered along their whole line; but their binding
interest is selfish and tends under certain conditions to divide them
one from another without bestowing on the divided individuals the energy
of independence and self-possession. Their position can be attacked at
its weaker points, not only without meeting with combined resistance,
but even with the assistance of some of their theoretical allies. Many
convinced supporters of the existing order are men of superior merit,
who are really fighting against their own better individual interests;
and they need only to taste the exhilaration of freedom in order better
to understand its necessary social and economical conditions. Others,
although men of inferior achievement, are patriotic and well-intentioned
in feeling; and they may little by little be brought to believe that
patriotism in a democracy demands the sacrifice of selfish interests and
the regeneration of individual rights. Men of this stamp can be made
willing prisoners by able and aggressive leaders whose achievements have
given them personal authority and whose practical programme is based
upon a sound knowledge of the necessary limits of immediate national
action. The disinterested and competent individual is formed for
constructive leadership, just as the less competent and independent, but
well-intentioned, individual is formed more or less faithfully to follow
on behind. Such leadership, in a country whose traditions and ideals are
sincerely democratic, can scarcely go astray.



The preceding section was concluded with a statement, which the majority
of its readers will find extremely questionable and which assuredly
demands some further explanation. Suppose it to be admitted that
individual Americans do seek the increase of their individuality by
competent and disinterested special work. In what way will such work and
the sort of individuality thereby developed exercise a decisive
influence on behalf of social amelioration? We have already expressly
denied that a desire to succor their fellow-countrymen or an ideal of
social reorganization is at the present time a necessary ingredient in
the make-up of these formative individuals. Their individual excellence
has been defined exclusively in terms of high but special technical
competence; and the manner in which these varied and frequently
antagonistic individual performers are to cooeperate towards socially
constructive results must still remain a little hazy. How are these
eminent specialists, each of whom is admittedly pursuing unscrupulously
his own special purpose, to be made serviceable in a coherent national
democratic organization? How, indeed, are these specialists to get at
the public whom they are supposed to lead? Many very competent
contemporary Americans might claim that the real difficulty in relation
to the social influence of the expert specialist has been sedulously
evaded. The admirably competent individual cannot exercise any
constructive social influence, unless he becomes popular; and the
current American standards being what they are, how can an individual
become popular without more or less insidious and baleful compromises?
The gulf between individual excellence and effective popular influence
still remains to be bridged; and until it is bridged, an essential stage
is lacking in the transition from an individually formative result to
one that is also socially formative.

Undoubtedly, a gulf does exist in the country between individual
excellence and effective popular influence. Many excellent specialists
exercise a very small amount of influence, and many individuals who
exercise apparently a great deal of influence are conspicuously lacking
in any kind of excellence. The responsibility for this condition is
usually fastened upon the Philistine American public, which refuses to
recognize genuine eminence and which showers rewards upon any
second-rate performer who tickles its tastes and prejudices. But it is
at least worth inquiring whether the responsibility should not be
fastened, not upon the followers, but upon the supposed leaders. The
American people are what the circumstances, the traditional leadership,
and the interests of American life have made them. They cannot be
expected to be any better than they are, until they have been
sufficiently shown the way; and they cannot be blamed for being as bad
as they are, until it is proved that they have deliberately rejected
better leadership. No such proof has ever been offered.

Some disgruntled Americans talk as if in a democracy the path of the
aspiring individual should be made peculiarly safe and easy. As soon as
any young man appears whose ideals are perched a little higher than
those of his neighbors, and who has acquired some knack of performance,
he should apparently be immediately taken at his own valuation and
loaded with rewards and opportunities. The public should take off its
hat and ask him humbly to step into the limelight and show himself off
for the popular edification. He should not be obliged to make himself
interesting to the public. They should immediately make themselves
interested in him, and bolt whatever he chooses to offer them as the
very meat and wine of the mind. But surely one does not need to urge
very emphatically that popularity won upon such easy terms would be
demoralizing to any but very highly gifted and very cool-headed men. The
American people are absolutely right in insisting that an aspirant for
popular eminence shall be compelled to make himself interesting to them,
and shall not be welcomed as a fountain of excellence and enlightenment
until he has found some means of forcing his meat and his wine down
their reluctant throats. And if the aspiring individual accepts this
condition as tantamount to an order that he must haul down the flag of
his own individual purpose in order to obtain popular appreciation and
reward, it is he who is unworthy to lead, not they who are unworthy of
being led. The problem and business of his life is precisely that of
keeping his flag flying at any personal cost or sacrifice; and if his
own particular purpose demands that his flying flag shall be loyally
saluted, it is his own business also to see that his flag is well worthy
of a popular salutation. In occasional instances these two aspects of a
special performer's business may prove to be incompatible. Every real
adventure must be attended by risks. Every real battle involves a
certain number of casualties. But better the risk and the wounded and
the dead than sham battles and unearned victories.

There is only one way in which popular standards and preferences can be
improved. The men whose standards are higher must learn to express their
better message in a popularly interesting manner. The people will never
be converted to the appreciation of excellent special performances by
argumentation, reproaches, lectures, associations, or persuasion. They
will rally to the good thing, only because the good thing has been made
to look good to them; and so far as individual Americans are not