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Title: Behind the Mirrors - The Psychology of Disintegration at Washington
Author: Gilbert, Clinton W. (Clinton Wallace), 1871-1933
Language: English
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                    BEHIND THE MIRRORS


       By the Author of "The Mirrors of Washington"

     Le métier superieur de la critique, ce
    n'est pas même, comme le proclamait
    Pierre Bayle, de semer des doubtes;
    il faut aller plus loin, il faut détruire.

                             DE GOURMONT


    The Knickerbocker Press

    Copyright, 1922
    G. P. Putnam's Sons

    Made in the United States of America



"A book like the _Mirrors of Downing Street_ is well enough. It is the
fashion to be interested in English notables. But that sort of thing
won't do here. The American public gets in the newspapers all it wants
about our national politicians. That isn't book material."

An editor said that just a year ago when we told him of the plan for the
_Mirrors of Washington_. And, frankly, it seemed doubtful whether
readers generally cared enough about our national political
personalities to buy a book exclusively concerned with them.

But they did. The _Mirrors of Washington_ became an instantaneous
success. It commanded almost unprecedented attention. It was heartily
damned and vociferously welcomed. By the averagely curious citizen,
eager for insight behind the gilded curtains of press-agentry and
partisanship, it was hailed as a shaft of common-sense sunlight thrown
into a clay-footed wilderness of political pap. And close to one hundred
thousand copies were absorbed by a public evidently genuinely interested
in an uncensored analysis of the people who are running us, or ruining
us, as individual viewpoint may determine.

The _Mirrors of Washington_ was by way of being a pioneer, at least for
America. Overseas, it is habitual enough to exhibit beneath the literary
microscope the politically great and near-great, and even to dissect
them--often enough without anæsthesia. To our mind, such critical
examination is healthily desirable. Here in America, we are
case-hardened to the newspapers, whose appraisal of political personages
is, after all, pretty well confined to the periods of pre-election
campaigning. And we are precious little influenced by this sort of
thing; the pro papers are so pro, and the anti papers so anti, that few
try to determine how much to believe and how much to dismiss as routine
partisan prevarication.

But a book! Political criticism, and personality analyses, frozen into
the so-permanently-appearing dignity of a printed volume--that is
something else again! Even a politician who dismisses with a smile or a
shrug recurrent discompliments in the news columns or the anonymous
editorial pages of the press, is tempted to burst into angry protest
when far less bitter, far more balanced criticism of himself is voiced
in a book. A phenomenon, that, doubtless revisable as time goes on and
the reflections of more book-bound Mirrors brighten the eyes of those
who read and jangle the nerves of those who run--for office.

_Behind the Mirrors_ is another such book. It delves into the
fundamentals at Washington. It is concerned with political tendencies as
well as political personalities. It presents what impresses us as a
genuinely useful and brilliant picture of present-day governmental
psychology and functioning. It is a cross section of things as they are.

The picture behind the mirrors is not as pretty as it might be. Probably
the way to make it prettier is to let ample light in upon it so that the
blemishes, discerned, may be rectified; and to impress those responsible
for its rehabilitation with the necessity of taking advantage of the
opportunities that are theirs.

When President Eliot of Harvard presented to a certain Senator an
honorary degree, he described with inimitable charm and considerable
detail that Senator's literary achievements; and then he mentioned his
political activities, ending with substantially these words: "A man with
great opportunities for public service still inviting him."

The invitation yet holds good. Acceptances are still in order.

                                                   G. P. P.

      June, 1922.


CHAPTER                                                              PAGE

           IN THE AMERICAN POLITICAL CONSCIOUSNESS                      3

           WINDING                                                     21

     III.--GOLDEN WORDS TURN TO BRASS                                  36



           ON A PILE OF DOLLARS                                       101

           BOTTLE                                                     119


           DO IT                                                      156

           HOUSE BOOBOISIE AND SOME OTHERS                            173

           SHAMS                                                      204

     XII.--THE HAPPY ENDING                                           226




UNCLE SAM'S CONFERENCE                                                  26

REPRESENTATIVE FRANK W. MONDELL OF WYOMING                              44

LORD RIDDELL                                                            96

ANDREW W. MELLON, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY                            112

ARTHUR BALFOUR                                                         130

ATTORNEY-GENERAL H. M. DAUGHERTY                                       138

SENATOR JAMES E. WATSON OF INDIANA                                     160



SENATOR HARRY S. NEW OF INDIANA                                        188

SENATOR JAMES W. WADSWORTH OF NEW YORK                                 190

SENATOR WILLIAM M. CALDER OF NEW YORK                                  192

SENATOR ARTHUR I. CAPPER OF KANSAS                                     216

GRAY SILVER, THE MAN BEHIND THE FARM BLOC                              222




President Harding had recently to decide the momentous question whether
we should have daylight saving in Washington. He decided it in a
perfectly characteristic way, perfectly characteristic of himself and of
our present political division and unsureness. He ruled that the city
should go to work and quit work an hour earlier, but that it should not
turn back the hands of the clock, should not lay an impious finger upon
God's Time.

That this straddle is typical of our President needs no argument--he
"has to be so careful," as he once pathetically said--but that it is
symptomatic of the present American political consciousness perhaps
needs elucidation.

The clock is one of the problems left to us by the Great War, one of
the innumerable problems thus left to us; it involves our whole attitude
toward men and things.

It represents, rather literally, Mechanism. In the war we adopted
perforce the creed that man was sufficiently master of his own destiny
to adapt Mechanism to his own ends; he could lay a presumptuous hand
upon God's Time. But in peace shall he go on thus boldly? Or shall he
revert to the good old days, the days of McKinley, when the clock was
sacred? Think of all the happiness, all the prosperity, that was ours,
all the duty done and all the destiny abundantly realized, before man
thought to lay a hand upon the clock!

The question what the limits to human government are is involved. What
may man attempt for himself and what should he leave to the great
Mechanism which has, upon the whole, run the world so well, to the Sun
in its courses, to progress, to inevitability? After all the clock was
in the beginning, is now and ever shall be--unless we meddle with
it--and before its cheerful face America was built from a wilderness
into a vast nation, creating wealth, so as to be the third historic
wonder of the ages--the glory that was Greece, the grandeur that was
Rome, the dollars that are America.

And not only are we divided as to the limits of government, but where
shall Mr. Harding look for authority to guide him with respect to
clocks? To his party? This is a party government, you remember. But his
party speaks with no clear voice about clocks or about anything else. To
business? Business has only one rule--more clocks in government and less
government in clocks. But business bows to the public. To public opinion
then? The public is divided about clocks; we tend to grow class
conscious about clocks. And clamorously amid all these authorities is
heard the voice of the Farm Bloc exclaiming: "Don't touch God's Time."

So it is decided that Washington may save daylight and save the clock
too, a double saving, a most happy compromise. If all questions touching
Mechanism could only be solved in the direction of such splendid

I listened a year ago to a most unusual Fourth of July oration. The
speaker, like most of us in this period of breakup following the Great
War, was rather bewildered. He had, moreover, his private reasons for
feeling that life was not easily construed. An illness, perhaps mortal,
afflicted him. Existence had been unclouded until this last cloud came;
why was it to end suddenly and without reason? He had gone through the
Great War a follower of Mr. Wilson's, to see the world scoffing at the
passionate faith it had professed a few months before and sneering at
the leaders it had then exalted. He had echoing in his mind the fine war
phrases, "Brotherhood of Man," "War to End War," "We must be just even
to those to whom we do not wish to be just." Then some monstrous hand
had turned the page and there was Harding, just as in his own life all
success at the bar and in politics, and the joy of being lord of a vast
country estate that had been patented in his family since colonial
times, had suddenly come to an end; the page had turned.

So this is what he said, in a voice that rose not much above a whisper,
"I have told them where to dig a hole and put me, out here on my
pleasant place. I don't know what it means. I don't believe it has any
meaning. The only thing to do is to laugh. You have trouble laughing?
Look about you and you will find plenty to laugh at. Look at your
President and laugh. Look at your Supreme Court and laugh. Not one of
them knows whether he is coming or going. Everything for the moment has
lost its meaning for everyone. If you can't laugh at anything else, just
think how many angels there are who are blank blanks and how many blank
blanks there are who are angels ... and laugh."

The Comic Spirit looking down from some cool distance sees something
like what this lawyer saw. It sees President Harding and the Ku Klux
Klan. The connection between President Harding and the Ku Klux Klan? The
Comic Spirit, perceiving everything, perceives that too. For it Mr.
Harding is but the pious manifestation of a sentiment of which the Ku
Klux Klan is the unconscious and serviceable parody, that instinctive
rush of a people with the world breaking up about it, to seek safety in
the past. Men always shrink thus backward when facing an uncertain
future, just as in moments of great peril they become children again,
call "Mother!" and revert to early practices at her knee. It is one of
the most intelligent things the human race ever does. It is looking
before you leap: the race has no choice but to leap; it draws back to
solid ground in the past for a better take-off into the future. Mr.
Harding represents solid ground, McKinley and the blessed nineties, the
days before men raised a presumptuous hand against the clock.

If utterly in earnest and determined to revive that happy period, you
clothe yourself in that garment which evokes the assured past, the
blessed nineties, the long white night shirt; the long white night shirt
supplemented by the black mask and the tar brush shall surely save you.

The Comic Spirit looking about largely, like our Fourth of July orator,
sees in Mr. Harding a wise shrinking into the safety of the past and in
Mr. William H. Taft, our new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, at once
a regard for the past and an eye for the future. Can anyone tell whether
Mr. Justice Taft is coming or going, as this Fourth of July speaker
asked? He comes and he goes, and like the wind man knows not whence he
cometh or whither he goeth. He is forward looking--when he is not
backward looking. Like Zekle,

    "He stands a while on one foot fust,
      Then stands a while on t'other;
    And on which one he feels the wust,
      He can not tell you nuther."

Glance at his public career. He stood upon his future foot with
Roosevelt, the chosen executor of "My Policies." A little later he
stands upon his past foot, alongside of Aldrich and Cannon, doing the
works of perdition and bringing on the battle of Armageddon. Again you
find him standing on his future foot beside Mr. Frank P. Walsh in the
War Labor Board, ranging himself with Mr. Walsh in practically all the
close decisions. Again you see him when all the fine forward looking of
the war was over, scurrying from the Russian revolution as fast as
President Wilson or all the rest of us. And once more on his future foot
with Mr. Wilson for the League of Nations and on his past foot with
President Harding against the League of Nations.

Let us be Freudian and say that the unconscious political self of the
whole nation is responsible for the selection of Mr. Harding and Mr.
Taft. As we shrink back into the past we are aware that it is for the
take-off into the future, and so we have Mr. Taft. We both eat our cake
and have it in the new Chief Justice.

The United States, like Zekle, is "standing a while on one foot fust,
then standing a while on t'other," moving forward or backward. But not
for long, too large and secure to be permanently cautious, with too much
well-being to be permanently bold, thinking, but with a certain
restraining contempt for thought, instinctive rather than intellectual.
Vast, eupeptic, assimilative, generous, adaptable, the Chief Justice
typifies the American people in its more permanent characteristics.

Mr. Harding as President, Mr. Taft as Chief Justice, the agricultural
bloc, the enfeebled Congress, the one million or so Democratic majority
which becomes in four years a seven-million Republican majority, are
only manifestations. The reality is the man, many millions strong, whose
mental state produces the symptoms at Washington. It will be profitable
to examine the content of his mind as it was in those days before
momentous decisions had to be made about daylight saving, and as it is
today when he hesitates between saving daylight and saving the clock,
and perhaps decides to save both.

I can not better describe his political consciousness as it was than by
saying that it contained three governments--the government of the clock,
the government of the clock-winders, and the government of those who
lived by the clock as religiously minded by the clock-winders. It was an
orderly age, beautifully sure of itself, and the area of these three
governments was nicely delimited. There was only a small place for the
third of these governments.

For the purposes of more common understanding I shall sometimes refer to
the government of the clock as the government of Progress, and the
government of the clock-winders as the government of business, and to
the third government as the government at Washington.

Before the war the American was sure that with each tick of the clock
the world grew richer and better, especially richer. Progress went
inevitably on and on. It never turned backward or rested. Its mechanical
process relieved man of many responsibilities. No one would think of
touching the mechanism; turning back the hands of the clock might rob us
of some boon that was intended in the beginning whose moment of arrival
might be lost by interfering with God's Time.

Born on a continent which only a few years before was a wilderness but
which now was the richest and one of the finest civilizations on the
earth, the American could not fail to believe in progress. The visible
evidences of it were on every hand. His father had been a poor immigrant
seeking the mere chance to live; he was a farmer possessed of many
acres, a business man who had an increasing income already in five
figures, a rising young attorney, or physician. Even from generation to
generation everything got better.

The past had had its unhappy moments. The American looked back at the
past mainly to measure how far he had come and to guess how far moving
forward at a geometrical ratio of increased speed he would go in the not
distant future. History flattered him.

Before his eyes went on the steady conquest over Nature, or perhaps it
is better to say, the steady surrender of Nature. Always there were new
discoveries of science. Always there were new inventions. Forces which a
little while ago were beyond control, whose existence even was
unsuspected, were harnessed to everyday uses. He saw progress in
statistics. Things which were reckoned in millions began to be reckoned
in hundreds of millions, began to be reckoned in billions. We loved to
read the long figures where, in the pleasing extension of ciphers,
wealth grew, debts grew--even debts were a source of pride before they
called for income taxes to meet the annual payments upon them.

Progress would never stop. Tomorrow we should set the sun's rays to some
more practical use than making the earth green and pleasant to look at
and its fruits good to eat. We should employ them like the waters of
Niagara Falls, to turn the wheels of machinery by day and to light soap
and automobile signs on Broadway by night. We should split atoms apart
and release the mighty forces that had held them together since the
beginning, for the production of commodities in greater and greater
quantities at less and less cost.

"We should," I say, but I do our inmost thought a vast injustice.
Rather, Progress would, scientists and inventors being only the
instruments of a Fate which went steadily forward to the accomplishment
of its beneficent purposes. At the right moment, at the appointed hour,
the man would appear. Progress kept the prompter's book and gave him the

To a people with all these evidences of an irresistible forward movement
in Nature before its eyes, came a prophet who gave it its law, the law
of evolution, the law by which once the monocellular organism had
acquired the mysterious gift of life out of combination and
recombination inevitably came man. It was all the unfolding of the
inevitable, the unrolling of time; the working out of a law.

Now, law has a quite extraordinary effect upon men's minds. The more Law
there is the less Man there is. The more man spells Law with a capital
letter the more he spells himself with a small letter. Man was no longer
the special creation of God. God, instead of making Adam and Eve his
wife, fashioned a grain of star dust and gave it a grain of star dust to
wife, leaving the rest to Progress. Man who had been a little lower than
the angels became, by an immense act of faith, a little higher than the
earthworm. The old doctrine of the Fall of Man took on a reverse twist.
Man had not fallen but he had risen from such debased beginnings that he
had not got far. He was in about the same place where he would have been
if he had fallen.

It was easy to turn upside down our belief in the Fall of Man. We always
knew there was something wrong with him, but we did not know what it was
until evolution explained his unregenerate character so satisfactorily.
Still the thought that Man did not move forward as fast as things, was
less the special ward of Progress than automobiles, elevators and
bathtubs, was vaguely disturbing.

The Greeks had left us records which showed that the human mind was as
good three thousand years ago as it is today, or better. We shut our
eyes to this bit of evidence by abandoning the study of the classics and
excluding all allusion to them in the oratory of our Congress. And
Mr. Wells in his History has since justified us by proving that
the Greeks were after all only the common run of small-town
folk--over-press-agented, perhaps, by some fellows in the Middle Ages
who had got tired of the Church and who therefore pretended that there
was something bigger and better in the world than it was.

So we pinned our hopes on the Martians and spent our time frantically
signalling to the nearby planet, asking whether, when the earth grew as
cold as King David when his physicians "prescribed by way of poultice a
young belle," and responded only weakly to the caress of the Sun, when
its oceans dried up and only a trickle of water came down through its
valleys from the melting ice at its poles, we should not, like the
fancied inhabitants of the nearest celestial body, have evolved at last
into super-beings. We wanted some evidence from our neighbors that, in
spite of the Greeks, by merely watching the clock we should arrive at a
higher estate.

The point I am trying to make is that we have been conducting the most
interesting of Time's experiments in the government of men at a period
when Man has been at a greater discount than usual in his own mind, when
self-government faced too much competition from government by the clock.

When I speak of government by the clock, I should, perhaps, use capital
letters to indicate that I have in mind that timepiece on which is
recorded God's Time; whose ticking is the forward march of progress.
Clocks as they touch our lives require human intervention. The winders
of these clocks perform something that may be described as an office.

You recall the place the clock filled in our households a generation
ago. Father wound it once a week, at a stated time, as regularly as he
went to church. The winding of it was a function. No other hand but
father's touched the key; if one had, the whole institution of family
life would have been imperiled. Father is a symbol for the government of
the clock-winders, those sacred persons who translated Progress into
terms of common utility.

When we descended from the regions of theocratic power to those of human
institutions, we found ourselves in America to be workers in one vast
countrywide workshop. The workshop touches us more directly and more
importantly than does the nation. Out of the workshop comes our bread
and butter. When the workshop closes down we suffer and form on line at
the soup kitchens.

Three meals a day concern us more than do post-offices and federal
buildings, of however white marble or however noble façades. What we
have to eat and to wear, what we may put in the bank, what real freedom
we enjoy, our position in the eyes of men, our happiness and
unhappiness, depend on our relations to the national workshop, not on
our relations to the national government.

We conceived of it vaguely as a thing which produced prosperity, not
prosperity in its larger and more permanent aspects--that was ours
through the beneficence of Progress and the immortal luck of our
country--but prosperity in its more immediate details.

A lot of confused thinking in which survived political ideas as old as
the race, converted into modern forms, entered into our conception of
it. It was a thing of gods and demigods, with legends of golden fleeces
and of Hercules holding up the skies. It was feudal in its privileges
and immunities. It enjoyed the divine right of kings. Yet it operated
under laws not made by man.

When it failed to effect prosperity, it was because of a certain law
that at the end of ever so many years of fatness it must produce a
famine. At such times men, demigods, stepped out of banks with sacks of
gold on their shoulders and mitigated the rigors of its failure.

And these splendid personages might set going again that which law
stopped. We bowed patiently and unquestioningly to its periodic
eccentricity as part of the Fate that fell upon the original sinner, and
watched hopefully the powerful men who might in their pleasure or their
wisdom end our sufferings.

We were taught to regard it as a thing distinct from political
authority, so that the less governors and lawmakers interfered with it
the better for the general welfare. Back in our past is a thorough
contempt for human intelligence which relates somehow to the religious
precept against questioning the wisdom of God. Whatever ordinary men did
in the field of economics was sure to be wrong and to check the flow of
goods upon which the well-being of society depended. We were all, except
the familiars of the great forces, impotent pieces of the game economic
law played upon this checker-board of nights and days.

I have said that this government of the national workshop in which we
were all laborers or foremen or superintendents or masters sometimes
seemed to our consciousness a government of laws and sometimes a
government of men. In any primitive faith priests played a large part,
and probably the primitive worshippers before them much of the time did
not think beyond the priests, while sometimes they did--when it was
convenient for the priests that they should.

When famines or plagues came it was because the gods were angry. When
they are averted it is the priests who have averted them. When economic
panics came it was because we had sinned against economic law; when they
were averted it was because men had averted them, men who lived on
intimate terms with economic law and understood its mysterious ways, and
enjoyed its favor, as their great possessions testified.

Naturally, we are immensely more directly and more constantly concerned
with this government than with the government at Washington. Besides, we
were mostly business men, or hoped to be. It was our government more
truly than was the government at Washington.

Only a limited area in the political consciousness was left for
self-government. You descended from the heights to the broad flat plain
of man's contempt for man. It was there, rooted firmly in the
constitution, that the government at Washington reared its head.
Self-government is a new thing; no myth has gathered about it. It was
established among men who believed in the doctrine of the original sin,
and it had been carried by their successors, who had abandoned the
sinner Adam as the progenitor of their kind for the sinless but
inglorious earthworm. The inferiority complex which is the race's most
persistent heritage from the past was written all over it.

I suppose it was Adam Smith who made self-government possible by
discovering that the things really essential to our welfare would take
care of themselves if we only let them alone and that the more we let
them alone the better they would take care of themselves, under eternal
and immutable laws. Ah, the happy thought occurred, if the really
essential things are thus beneficially regulated why shouldn't we have
the fun of managing the non-essentials ourselves?

Progress ruled the world kindly and well. It might be trusted to see
that all went for the best. The government of business functioned
effectively for the general weal. The future was in the hands of a force
that made the world richer and better. The present, in all that
concerned man most vitally with regards food and shelter, was directed
by enlightened self-interest represented by men who personified success.

It was impossible not to be optimistic when existence was so well
ordered. There was no sorry scheme of things to be seized entire. Life
was a sort of tropics without tropical discomforts. The tropics do not
produce men. They produce things.

The Mechanism worked, as it seemed to us, in those happy days. We were
satisfied with the clock and the clock-winders. We were not divided in
our minds as to whether we should turn back its hands. The less men
meddled the better. There was little work for human government to do.
There was no call for men.

The picture in our heads, to use Mr. Graham Wallas's phrase, was of a
world well ruled by a will from the beginning, whose purpose was
increase; of some superior men having semi-sacred relations with the
will who acted as intermediaries between the will and the rest of us;
and of the rest of us as being rewarded by the will, through its
intermediaries, according to our timidity and submissiveness.

It was, the world, over the great age of the racial inferiority complex,
for which Science had furnished a new and convincing basis. I might
maintain that the Great War was modern society's effort to compensate
for the evolution complex; man wanted to show what he could do, in spite
of his slimy origin. Anyway, it broke the picture in our heads. Being
economical, like Mr. Harding, we are trying both to save the pieces of
the picture and put them together again, and to form, out of them
unfortunately, a new picture; which accounts for our confusion.

But the picture in our heads before the war, such as it was, is the
reason for our present inadequacy. You could not form much of a
self-government or develop men for one, with that complex in your soul.



How many of us believe in Progress with the unquestioning faith we had
before that day in July, 1914, when Austria's declaration of war upon
Serbia started the ruin of all that centuries had built up in Europe?
Most of us have not stopped to analyze what has happened since to our
belief that the world ever moved by an irresistible primal impulse
forward to more and better things, that the song which the morning stars
sang together was "It shall be multiplied unto you," that increment is
inevitable and blessed. But how many of us really believe that in the
unqualified way we once did?

The world had many pleasant illusions about Progress before the great
catastrophe of 1914 came to shatter them. And nowhere were these
illusions more cheerfully accepted than in this country of ours, where a
wilderness had become a great civilization in the space of a century and
where the evidences of rapid, continuous advancement were naturally

The first pleasant illusion was that modern progress had made war
impossible, at least war between the great nations of the earth, which,
profiting by the examples we had set them, enjoyed more or less free
governments, where production mounted from year to year, where wealth
was ever increasing. Destiny plainly meant more and more iron dug from
the ground and turned into steel machinery, larger, more powerful
automobiles, taller and taller buildings, swifter and swifter elevators,
more and more capacious freight cars, and destiny would not tolerate
stopping all this for the insanity of destruction.

Moreover--how good were the ways of Progress--the ever increasing
mastery over the forces of nature which had been fate's latest and best
gift to humanity, approaching a sort of millennium of machinery, while
creating vaster engines of industry had brought into being more and
monstrous weapons of warfare.

Life with benignant irony was making man peaceful in spite of himself.
His bigger and bigger cannon, his more and more lethal explosives were
destroying his capacity for destruction. War was being hoist by its own
petard. The bigger the armies, the more annihilating the shells piled up
in the arsenals, the less the chance of their ever being used.

Progress, infinitely good toward man, had found a way out of war, the
plague that had blighted the earth since the beginning. What religion
could not do, the steel foundries and the chemical laboratories had
done. They had made war too deadly to be endured. In effect they had
abolished it. Peace was a by-product of the Bessemer oven and the dye
vat. Man's conquest of himself was an unconsidered incident of his
conquest of nature.

Then there were the costs of war. Progress had done something more than
make fighting intolerably destructive of men and cities; it had made it
intolerably destructive of money. Even if we would go to war, we could
not since no nation could face the vast expenditures.

Two little wars of brief duration, the Boer War and the Balkan War, had
left great debts to be paid and had brought in their train financial
disturbances affecting the entire world. A European war would destroy
immensely more capital and involve vastly greater burdens. No nation
with such a load on its shoulders could meet the competition of its
peace keeping rivals for the world's trade. No government in its senses
would provoke such consequences, and governments were, of course, always
in their senses.

You did not have to accept this as an act of faith; you could prove it.
Shells, thanks to Progress, cost so many hundreds of dollars each.
Cannon to fire them cost so many thousands of dollars each and could
only be used a very few times. Armies such as the nations of Europe
trained, cost so much a day to feed and to move. The demonstration was
perfect. Progress had rendered war virtually impossible.

If in spite of all a war between great modern nations did start, it
could last only a few weeks. No people could stand the strain.
Bankruptcy lay at the end of a short campaign. A month would disclose
the folly of it, and bring the contestants to their senses; if it did
not, exhaustion would. Credit would quickly disappear. Nations could not
borrow on the scale necessary to prolong the struggle.

The wisest said all these things as governments began to issue orders of
mobilization in 1914. Emperors were merely shaking their shining armor
at each other. There would be no war. It was impossible. The world had
progressed too far. Anachronistic monarchies might not know it, but it
had. Their armies belonged as much to the past as their little titles,
as all the middle-age humbug of royalty, their high-wheeled coaches,
their out-riders in their bright uniform, their debilitating habit of
marrying cousins, their absurdities about their own divine rights. They
had armies, as they wore upturned mustachios, to make themselves look
imposing. They were as unreal as the pictured kings in children's story
books or on a deck of cards. Forces mightier than they had settled
forever the question of war.

And when hostilities actually began an incredulous America knew they
would be over in three months. Anybody with a piece of paper and a
pencil could prove that they could not last. It took all of Kitchener's
prestige to persuade society that the fighting would keep on through the
winter, and his prediction that it would continue three years was
received as the error of a reporter or the opinion of a professional
soldier who overlooked the economic impossibility of a long war.

It is worth while recalling these cheerful illusions to estimate what
has happened to the idea of Progress in seven swiftly changing years. We
did not give up readily the illusion that the world had been vastly and
permanently changed for the better. As it was proved that there could be
a war and a long one and as the evidence multiplied that this war was
the most devastating in all history, we merely changed our idea of
Progress, which became in our minds a force that sometimes produced evil
in order that good might result.

The Great War itself was assimilated to our idea of a beneficent fate.
Whom Progress loveth it chasteneth. Instead of rendering war impossible
by making it destructive and costly, it visited the earth with the
greatest war of all time in order to make war impossible. This was the
war to end all war. The ways of progress were past finding out but they
were good.

Paper demonstrations had gone wrong. Governments did not go bankrupt
after a few months but could still borrow at the end of five years.
Humanity did not sicken and turn away from the destruction, but the
greater the carnage the more eager were the nations still at peace to
have a hand in it. Still it could never happen again. It was a lesson
sent of fate. Men must co-operate with progress and not leave to that
force the sole responsibility for a permanently peaceful future. They
had sinned against the light in allowing such unprogressive things, as
autocracies upon the earth. They must remove the abominations of the
Hapsburgs and the Hohenzollerns. Once they had set up that brightest
flower of Progress, modern democracy, in place of the ancient empires,
there would be no more wars. Democracy had one great merit. It was
rather stupid and lacking in foresight. It did not prepare for war and
being forever unready would not fight.

The war had been sent by Progress to call man's attention to their
duties regarding certain anachronisms with which Progress was otherwise
unable to deal.


You will observe that the idea of Progress took three forms in as many
years. First it was a pure force moving straight ahead toward a goal of
unimaginable splendor, even whose questionable products like bigger
cannon and higher explosives accomplished by one of its larger ironies
benefits that were the opposite of their purposes.

Then assuming the aspects of a more personal deity, it became capable of
intentions and could choose courses utterly inconsistent with itself in
order to achieve ends that would be splendidly consistent with itself.
It made larger demands upon faith.

Then it began to require a little aid from man himself, on the principle
that God helps them that help themselves, the cleaning up by men of the
human rubbish heap, the purging of autocracy by democracy. Human
responsibility began to emerge. The picture in our heads was changing.

Then, as the war came to a close it became apparent that President
Wilson's happy idea that democracies, being stupid and unready to fight,
would live together in eternal peace, was inadequate. The treaty would
leave the three great democracies armed as the autocracies never had
been armed. They might elect to remain so and use their weapons as
provocatively as any Hapsburg or Hohenzollern ever did. Men must
organize, must league themselves together, must govern themselves
internationally in order to have peace, which was no longer an
accidental by-product of the modern factory, but must be created by men
themselves, deliberately acting to that end. Men must work out their own
salvation, aided and admonished of course by such perfect works of
progress as a war to end war.

Men make the attempt. The peoples of the earth assemble and write a
treaty which keeps the chief democratic nations on the continent of
Europe armed against each other, which provides endless subjects of
dispute among the smaller countries; and they sign a covenant which the
unanimous opinion of mankind rejects as an effective safeguard against
future wars and which many regard as dividing the earth into two hostile
camps. "It was humanity's failure," declares General Smuts. "There will
always be war," asserts President Harding, calling a conference not to
end war but to lessen the cost of preparing for war.

Not only has material progress failed to produce peace as its
by-product, but moral progress has failed to produce peace as its
deliberate product.

And Progress is in reality moving forward to wars more deadly and more
ruinous than the last. Weapons were developed toward the end of the
Great War capable of vastly worse havoc than any used during its course.
And only a beginning has been made. If we may come to use the power that
holds atoms together in the driving of engines, we may also use it in
war to blast whole cities from the face of the earth. Conquest of the
air means larger bombs from the air. Greater knowledge of chemistry
means industrial advancement and also deadlier poison gases. Material
gains bring compensating material ills or the possibility of them.

Even the material gains, great as they have been, seem somewhat smaller
today than they once were thought to be. In our most optimistic moments
before the war we had the pleasant illusion of steadily decreasing hours
of labor and steadily lowering costs. Men had worked twelve, ten, and
finally eight hours a day, and it was predicted that this process would
go on until six, perhaps four hours a day would be sufficient to supply
the needs of the race.

We paid five cent fares on the street cars and were hopeful that they
would become three cent fares; three cents was established by law in
many cities as the maximum charge. The railroads collected a little over
two cents a mile for carrying passengers and in many states statutes
were enacted establishing two cents a mile as the legal rate. We were
impressed by striking examples of lowering prices, in the automobile
industry for example, and were confident that this was the rule of
modern life.

Prices, except of food products, were steadily decreasing; there might
be an end to this movement but we were nowhere near the end. The wonders
of modern inventions, and if not these, the economics of concentrated
organization, and if not these, the use of by-products, were steadily
lowering costs. The standard of living was rising. What was the rich
man's luxury in one generation was the poor man's necessity in the next.
It would always be so. That was Progress.

We now pay seven or eight cents to ride on street cars and more than
three cents a mile to travel on trains. All prices have advanced. The
standard of living has declined and we ask ourselves if it will not have
to decline still further. No one now talks of a six-hour day. We
recognize a check in the process toward increasing well-being at less
effort. Life has become more difficult. Progress is no longer a simple
and steady movement onward in a single direction. Like evolution
sometimes it seems to stand still or perhaps go back. Like evolution it
requires a _vital élan_; it is a thing of leaps and rests. We are less
enthusiastic about it when it rests.

We blame our discomfiture, the higher prices and the lower standard of
living on the war, but much of it was inevitable, war or no war. The
idea that the struggle for existence would grow steadily easier was
largely a conclusion from appearances. We were raising our standard of
living by skimming the cream of our natural resources. When our original
forests were cut, when the most easily mined veins of iron and coal were
exhausted, when oil wells ceased to gush and had to be pumped, unless
substitutes were found, all the basic costs of production would advance.
Ultimately they would advance to the point where economies of
organization, of quantity production, of by-product development, so far
as they have been realized, would no longer serve to keep down final
prices. We were rapidly reaching that point when the war came.

We lived under an illusion. What we called the results of progress was
the rapid exhaustion of easily available resources. We used our capital
and thought ourselves rich. And we lie under a burden of debt made much
heavier by the weapons which progress put into our hands. Progress had
not made war too expensive to fight but it had made peace too expensive
to be borne. We forgot the law of diminishing returns. We ignored the
lessons of history that all ages come to an end, when the struggle for
existence once more grows severe until new instruments are found equal
to the further conquest over nature. Useful inventions have not kept
pace with increasing consumption and rapidly disappearing virgin
resources. The process of steadily lowering costs of production has
stopped and reverse process has set in. Spectacular inventions like the
airplane have deluded us into the belief that Progress, always blessing
us, we had the world by the tail. But coal and iron became harder and
costlier to mine. Oil neared exhaustion. Timber grew scarcer.
Agricultural lands smaller in proportion to population.

Immense possibilities lie before us. So they did before the man with the
stone hatchet in his hand, but he waited long for the steam, saw and
drill and crusher. An invention which would mean as much in the conquest
of nature as did the steam engine would make the war debt as easily
borne as the week's account at the grocery store. But when will progress
vouchsafe it? Converting coal into power we waste 85 per cent of its
energy in coal and call that efficient. But does Progress always respond
instantly to our needs with new methods and devices, like a nurse
responding to a hungry child? A few years ago we were sure it did, but
now we look anxiously at the skies for a sign.

We had another characteristic pleasant illusion during the war.
Progress, like the Lord, in all previous conflicts was on our side. Here
was a great need of humanity. Surely, according to rule, it should be
met by some great invention that would blast the Germans out of their
places in the earth and give the sons of light an easy and certain
victory. All the familiars of the deity sat about in boards watching for
the indication that the engine to meet the needs of civilization had
been granted. But it never was.

I do not write this to suggest that men, especially American men, have
ceased to believe in Progress. They would be fools if they had. I write
to suggest that they have ceased to believe in Progress. They would be
fools if they had not. A great illusion is gone, one of the chief
dislocations wrought by the war.

What the war has done to our way of thinking has been to lay a new
stress upon man as a free and responsible agent. After all the battles
were won not by guns, or tanks or gas or airplanes, but as always by the
common man offering his breast to the shots of the enemy. The hope of
the future is all in human organizations, in societies of nations, in
councils and conferences. Men's minds turn once more to governments with
renewed expectation. Not only do we think for the first time seriously
of a government of the world but we focus more attention on the
government at Washington. Groups with special interests to serve reach
out openly to control it.

The war laid a new emphasis on government. Not only did the government
have our persons and our lives at its command but it assumed authority
over our food, it directed our factories and our railroads, it told us
what we could manufacture and ship, it decided who could borrow of the
general credit and for what purposes, it fixed the prices at which we
could buy and sell. It came to occupy a new place in the national
consciousness and one which it will never wholly lose. One rival to
it,--the belief, having its roots in early religious ideas, and
strengthened by scientific theory and the outward results of the great
inventions, that moved by some irresistible impulse, life went steadily
forward to higher and higher planes, and that man had but little to do
but pluck the fruits of progress--has been badly shattered by events.

But men do not change beliefs suddenly. Perhaps after all the war was
only the way of progress--to usher in a new and brilliant day. Perhaps
the unfolding future has something near in store far greater and better
than went before. We shall not trust men too far, men with their
obstinate blindness, men with their originally sinful habit of thinking
they know better than the forces which rule the world. We want not
leaders but weather cocks, who will veer to the kindlier wind that may
blow when it is yet only a zephyr.

We turn to men yet, we cling a little to the hope that fate will yet
save us. This division in us accounts for Lloyd George and Harding, our
own commonplace "best we have on hand" substitute for the infinitely
variable Englishman, adjusted to every breath that blows, who having no
set purpose of his own offers no serious obstacle to any generous design
of fate.

Senator Borah once said to me, "The Administration has no definite
policies." And it is not Mr. Harding's fault. If he wanted to form any
the people wouldn't let him. They elected him not to have any. They
desired in the White House some one who would not look further ahead
than the next day until the future became clearer. If he had purposes
events might prove them to be wrong.

The same fundamental idea underlay the remark of a member of the
Cabinet, at the outset of the recent disarmament and Far Eastern
Conference, that "Lloyd George was the hope of the gathering because he
had no principles."

The war destroyed many men but it half restored Man. You see how
inevitable optimism is. The ways of Progress are indeed past finding
out. Governments during it performed the impossible. They even took in
hand the vast industrial mechanism which we ordinarily leave to the
control of the "forces." We half suspect they might do the impossible in
peace but we half hope that some kindlier fate is in store for us than
to trust ourselves to human intelligence. We don't know whether to put
our money on Man or on Progress; so we put it on Mr. Harding.



Unlike government by Progress, government by business, by the
semi-sacred intermediaries between the will to increase and the rest of
us, began to disintegrate before the war; which merely completed the

Let us consider what has happened in the last few years to government by
business, that government which the smoking compartment philosopher has
in mind when he says so hopefully of Mr. Harding: "_They_ will see to it
that he gets along all right."

The first manifestation of nationality in this country was the
nationality of business. Before industry became national nothing was
national. The United States was a pleasant congeries of localities. It
was held together by reading everywhere the story of the Battle of
Bunker Hill in the same school history, which sometimes bore a different
author's name but which was always the same history. "Don't fire till
you can see the whites of their eyes" and "If we don't hang together we
shall all hang separately" were the unifying bond, and they were enough.
We had the same sense of identity as an infant has when it becomes aware
that the delightful toe and the delightful mouth where it is inserted
appertain vaguely to the one ego. The local factory and the local bank
subtended the entire arc of economic consciousness. There was one
single-track railroad which ran from Podunk to Peopack and another from
Peopack to Peoria, unrelated, discontinuous.

In those simple times when business was local the local factory owner,
banker, or railroad builder was the hero of his neighborhood. It was he
who "put the town on the map." He gave it prosperity. He built it by
attracting labor into his employment. He gave it contact with the
outside world. If you owned town lots it was he who gave them value and
it was he who might take away their value if he was offended. If you had
a general store it was he who added to its patronage by adding to the
population. If you raised farm products nearby it was he who improved
your market. He built the fine house which it was your pride to show
visitors. Your success and happiness was bound up in his. He conferred
his blessings for a consideration, for you were careful to make no laws
which restricted the freedom of his operations. You permitted him a vast
unofficial "say" in your local government; you gave him a little the
best of it in the assessment for taxes. You felt a little lifted up by
his condescension in calling you by your first name and stopping to ask
about your family on the street corner. You were jealous of his rights
because after all the value of your own depended upon his use of his.

When business figures arose upon the national horizon they were merely
these local figures vastly multiplied. As a people we called them "Jim"
and "Jay," and "Dan'l," just as we had called the local manufacturer and
banker by their first names. All the good will that went to the local
business leaders went to them. They put money into our pockets, when
they didn't happen to take it out of our pockets; on the whole they were
doing the great work of making this country a richer and better land.
Some who did not conceive the resources of the printing press in the
issuance of new securities had to suffer, but that was their lookout;
suffering for some was the way of the world.

Business began to be national in the tying together into systems the
little dislocated railroads that local enterprise had laid down and in
the creation of a national securities market for the distribution of
ownership in the new combinations.

A new era opened when Gould and Fisk and Drew started at full speed
their rival printing presses in Wall Street. Look over our whole drab
political story from the death of Lincoln to the arrival of Roosevelt,
more than a generation, and, if we did not preserve the names of our
Presidents in our histories, how many names are there worth
remembering? Garfield was shot, which was dramatic. Cleveland was a fat
man who used long Latin words. He was also the first Democratic chief
executive in more than thirty years. What else? Who else?

Meanwhile an amazing array of business personages diverted attention
from the inconspicuous Hayeses, Arthurs, and McKinleys, who were the
flower of our public life. Gould, Fisk, Drew, Hill, Carnegie, the
Rockefellers, Harriman, Morgan, Ryan--business was fertile of men,
politics sterile; you have to go back to the foundation of the
government for a period so prolific in men, of the other sort, or to the
age of Elizabeth or of Pericles for another as prolific in men, of still
another kind. How could the dull sideshow in Washington compete with the
big spectacle in New York?

These demigods of business were not only shining personalities; they
were doing the work of making America great and rich; we all shared in
the prosperity they were creating. To go back to the small town again,
who was it increased the opportunities of the storekeeper, the
neighboring farmer, or real estate holder? Was it the mayor and the
common council by passing ordinances about street signs and sidewalk
encumbrances? Or the manufacturer or railroad builder who put the town
on the map, giving employment to labor or an outlet for its products?

The government at Washington occupied a place in our consciousness
similar to that of the government of the small town. It was charged with
our national defense, a function of such little importance that we had
hardly an army or a navy. It conducted our economic defense, against the
foreigner, with laws written, however, by business itself, which
naturally knew best how it wanted to be defended; you could not, in your
proper senses, suppose that the Hayeses, Arthurs, and McKinleys were
wiser than the Carnegies, Hills, Morgans, or Harrimans. For the rest it
was told severely to let well enough alone. To make assurance doubly
sure that it would do so it was rather openly given over to the great
men who were creating the national wealth.

Starting with the combination of the little speculatively built
railroads into systems and the development of a security market to float
the shares of stock in the new companies, business took on rapidly a
more and more national character. Great bankers arose to finance the
consolidations. An investing public with a wider horizon than that which
used to put its money in local enterprises entrusted its funds in the
hands of the great bankers or took its chances in the market for stocks.
Industry went through a similar concentration. Stronger companies
absorbed their weaker and less successful rivals. The same bankers who
sat in the boards of directors of the railroads representing their
investing public took their places in the directorate of manufacturing

The railroads seeking the business of the big industrial companies and
the big industrial companies desiring favors from the railroads placed
representatives in each others' boards. This interlocking created a
national organization of business dominated by a few striking and
spectacular figures.

The popular imagination was as much heated over the discovery of the
United States as a single field of enterprise as the imagination of
Europe had been centuries earlier over the discovery of the new world.

The psychology of the local industry period carried over into this new
period of national industry. The whole country became one vast small
town. The masters of industry, banking, and the railroads were the
leading citizens. They were "putting the United States on the map," as
the local creator of wealth had put the small town on the map. They were
doing something vast, from which we all undoubtedly benefited. Perhaps
we could not trace our advantage so immediately as we could to the
enterprise of the man who brought population to our town, swelling the
price of our real estate or increasing the sales at our stores. But what
had been a matter of experience on a small scale was a matter of belief
on a large scale. The same consequences must follow, with manifold
abundance. And the nation was demonstrably growing rapidly, immensely
richer; surely cause and effect.

Business had from the first taken on among us, as Mr. Lowes Dickinson
remarks, a religious character; and when by a great thrust it
overreached the bounds of locality and became national, its major
prophets emerged. Mr. Van Wyck Brooks quotes Mark Twain as writing: "The
words of a proprietor of a rich coal mine have a golden sound, and his
common sayings are as if they were solid wisdom." How much more of this
sacred character inhered in the heroes who created nationwide railroad
systems, vast steelmaking consolidations, monopolies of oil and coal!

When a New York lawyer said of E. H. Harriman that he moved in spheres
which no one else dare tread, he was putting, a little late, into words
the national awe of the men who had overleapt the bounds of locality and
bestrode the continent industrially, the heads of the vast business
hierarchy. When Mr. Baer said that he operated the Reading Railroad by
divine right he said only what a worshipping people had taught him to
think. Those men did not use this half-religious language by accident;
they crystallized into phrases the feeling of the country toward those
who had done God's work of making it rich, making it successful.

Each like an unconscious Cervantes helped to laugh our industrial
chivalry away.

How easy it is to believe about yourself what everyone believes about
you! How hard not to! How easy to believe that you rule railroads by
"divine right," or walk in "higher spheres," when the whole unexpressed
consciousness of a hundred million people assigns you just such hieratic
appurtenances and privileges. How doubt in the face of all this
evidence? They identified themselves with Progress, and Progress was
what ruled the world. If you have faith and if you are fortified with
the faith of others, self-identification with one of the larger forces
is not difficult. Was not what they were doing Progress, was it not the
realization of that benignant will to the utter blossoming of chaos into
utility which was planned in the beginning? Were they not instruments
rather than mere men, instruments of the greater purpose of which
America was the perfect work? If you believe in theocratic forces you
believe also in chosen human agencies for carrying them out.

They were more than instruments of Progress. I have spoken of government
by economic law as having challenged political government in the
consciousness of the people. As a country we perhaps believe in economic
law more firmly than any nation in the world. Wasn't America being
produced in accordance with economic law and wasn't America one of the
marvels of the earth? I asked a salesman recently, a man with no
personal interests which would give him the prejudices of the business
world, why he hated Henry Ford. "Because," he replied instantly and
without hesitation, "he defies economic law." He spoke like a true
American. To defy economic law and make money at it is like selling the
Savior for twenty pieces of silver.

"The physical laws," says De Gourmont, "promulgated or established by
the scientists, are confessions of ignorance. When they cannot explain a
mechanism they declare its movements are due to a law. Bodies fall by
virtue of the law of gravitation. This has precisely the same value in
the serious order as the comic _virtus dormitiva_." In the promulgation
of economic law our interest perverts the simple and just operation of
our ignorance. In the field of physical phenomena we perceive a series
of uniform events and call that uniformity a law. In the field of
economic phenomena we perceive a series of events uniformly serving our
interests and call that uniformity a law.

These greater business men of the past fruitful generation operated on
the whole over a long period of falling prices. Wealth accumulated. You
read about it in the government reports, dividing the total by the total
population. The division thus effected was mighty assuring. Labor was
better paid. Higher institutions of learning multiplied. Libraries
housed in marble grew upon every crossroads. Intellectual as well as
material needs were in process of being better satisfied. We were
approaching an age when ink upon white paper, now so cheap, cheaper
than ever in the pitiful past, should lift humanity to a new and higher


The evidence was conclusive. These greater business men were in supreme,
in conspicuous direction of the country's development. The happiest
results followed. They worked in harmony with economic law, for they
prospered gloriously and one could no more break economic law and
prosper than one could break criminal law and keep out of jail. Until
Ford came no one could defy economic law with impunity.

And law and justice being two ideas that associate themselves together
in the human mind, in a binder of optimism perhaps, like the disparate
elements that form clinkers in a furnace, they were accomplishing that
perfect work of the justice which inhered in things at the beginning,
when tiny atoms with the urge to produce an earth fit for man to live
on, to produce America in short, began to discover affinities for each
other. No wonder they penetrated "higher spheres" ruled by "divine
right," and that "golden words" dropped from their mouths. Progress,
destiny, an instinct for economic law, it was much to unite one man.

Again, they were more than this. Men cannot be so universally looked to
for the welfare of the nation as they were, without becoming in effect
the government of that nation. Business and the government were one.
Public opinion at that time would have regarded an administration which
defied the great commercial interests as dangerous to the country's
advancement. Lawyers like Mr. Knox or Mr. Root, who had proved their
value to them, went to the Senate as their spokesmen. Able and ambitious
men in both Houses of Congress, wishing power and influence, became
their agents. The chairmen of the important committees of both houses
were in their confidence and spoke with authority because of what they
represented. Some of the virtue of the great, some shadow of divine
right, descended upon them. Among valets the valet of the king is king.

We forget, in the great outcry that was raised a few years ago over the
"invisible government," that the invisible government was once
sufficiently visible, almost consciously recognized, and fully accepted.
It seemed the most natural thing in the world that the men who were
making the country rich, making it a nation economically, should work
their will freely at Washington. We jealously guarded their liberties.
Woe unto the legislator who would interfere with their freedom to
contract, for example, for the labor of children, which we described as
the freedom of children to sell their labor advantageously. Adult labor
banding together to arrange terms of its own sale was felt to be a
public enemy. Every age has its fetish; the medicine man who could
exorcise the evil spirit in stone and bush was not a more privileged
character than his successor at whose touch prosperity sprang out of
the earth, at whose word the mysterious economic forces which might in
their wrath prove so destructive, bowed and became kind.

Make a few individuals the embodiment of a national purpose that has
long existed, unconscious and unquestioned, give them as you inevitably
do in such a case the utmost freedom that is possible on this earth, let
them be limited enough mentally so that they are blind to any other
possible purpose; do all these things and you produce great men. It was
an age of great men, Rockefellers, Carnegies, Morgans, Hills, Ryans,
Harrimans, and a host of others, richer in personalities than any other
period of American life except that which produced Washington, Hamilton,
Franklin, Jefferson, and Marshall. They were the flowering of the whole
pioneer civilization.

One hundred and fifty years of freedom has produced few free men.
Perhaps these were all. They may not have been free intellectually.
Charles Francis Adams writes of their kind: "I have known, and known
tolerably well, a good many successful men,--'big' financially, men
famous during the last half century; and a less interesting crowd I do
not care to encounter. Not one that I have ever known would I care to
meet again, nor is one of them associated in my mind with the idea of
humor, thought, or refinement."

Never mind. They were free in all the essential ways. The men of whom
Adams wrote had no such sense of their limitations as he expressed.
Only an Adams would then have had it, and the Adamses were not what M.
Galtier of _Le Temps_ suggested when, hastily absorbing the American
spirit at Washington, he said to me: "I am reading _The Education of
Henry Adams_: He was what you would call a typical American, was he

An Adams, even Charles Francis Adams, writing of that time, was
untypical enough, to have missed the point, which was not whether these
men "'big' financially" were interesting, witty, thoughtful, or refined,
but whether they were free. And they were; they were so sure of
themselves, and public opinion was so sure of them, that they
concentrated on the one great aim of that simple day, and did not waste
themselves upon non-essentials like "humor, thought, or refinement."

I have a theory that we are wrong in ascribing the poverty of American
literature and statesmanship to the richness of our business life. "All
our best and ablest minds went into commerce," we say. We flatter
ourselves. Mr. Carnegie, born in the days of Elizabeth, might not have
been Shakespeare. Mr. Harriman was perhaps, after all, no mute Milton,
Mr. Morgan no Michaelangelo.

These brave spirits developed in business not so much perhaps because of
the national urge to "conquer a continent" as because in business,
enjoying the immunity it then did, they found the utmost opportunity for
self-expression, the one great measure of freedom which this free
country afforded. A jealous public guarded their divine right from
impious hands. They believed in themselves. The people believed in them.
So the flowering of the pioneer age came, in such a race of men as are
not on the earth today, and the rule of business reached its climax.

It was an autumn flowering, rich and golden like the Indian summer of
New England culture, a sign that a cycle was run. Adams sniffing from
the transcendental heights of Boston wrote: "a race of mere
money-getters and traders." Remember the sneers in our cocksure press of
those days at the "culture" of Boston? Boston has had its revenge. The
words "mere money-getters" bit in. There were other objects in life
beside pioneering the industrial opportunities of a whole continent just
brought together into commercial unity. Mr. Morgan began to buy art. Mr.
Carnegie began to buy libraries and started authorship himself. The men
"'big' financially" began to look over their shoulders and see the
shadows--as we all do now--where they a little before kept their eyes
straight forward and saw the one clear vision, the truth, such as it
was, that made them free.

I have traced that element in the American political consciousness,
government by business, to its highest moment.

"Divine right" is only safe when it is implicit. When you begin to avow
it, as Mr. Baer did, it is already in question. The national passion
for equality began to work. Had not Mr. Carnegie confessed the weakness
in his soul's fortress by writing a book? Had not Mr. Morgan by buying
art suggested the one aim of pioneering on a grand scale might not be
life's sole end?

Mr. Baer with his avowal, Mr. Carnegie and Mr. Morgan with their seeking
of the broader satisfactions, Mr. Schwab behaving like a king in exile
at the gaming tables of Monte Carlo, may have invited what followed. But
they were only expressing in their own way the sense becoming general
that pioneering was over and that its ideals were too narrow and too
few--even if no clear sense was coming of what state and what ideals
were to take their place. Men turn from leaders whose day of greatest
usefulness is past and set up new leaders against them. Against the
government by business the first great national unity that entered the
American consciousness they began to erect the state, the national
government at Washington.

No one meant to end government by business and substitute for it
government by the people. Not for a moment. We devised a new set of
checks and balances, like that between the various branches provided for
in our Constitution, a new political organism which should equal and
coexist with the one we already had. The government personified by Mr.
Roosevelt was the check and balance to the government personified by
Mr. Harriman and Mr. Morgan. Governments never die but merely recede in
the national consciousness, like the old clothes which we keep in the
attic. Thus revolutions never effect a revolution; democracy is only a
Troy built upon nine other prehistoric Troys: beneath, you find
aristocracy, rule by divine right, despotism, theocracy, and every other
governance on which men in their invincible optimism have pinned their

The revolution which Mr. Roosevelt brought about was the kind which
exclaims loudly "malefactors of great wealth" while writing to Mr.
Harriman "we are both practical men." It was the kind of revolution this
country desired. The nation wished to eat its cake and have it, to
retain government by business and have alongside it another government,
as powerful, as interesting, as colorful, as rich in personalities, as
the late autumn of pioneering had brought into gorgeous bloom.

Mr. Roosevelt's method with the new government was this: Senator Aldrich
and Speaker Cannon representing the still powerful coexistent government
by business in Congress, would call at the White House and tell the
President just how far he could go and no further. They would emerge. A
moment later the press in response to a summons would arrive. Mr.
Roosevelt would say: "I have just sent for Mr. Aldrich and Mr. Cannon
and forced them to accept my policy, etc." Nobody was deceived. Unlike
the philosopher who made all knowledge his province, Mr. Roosevelt made
all knowledge his playground, and not only all knowledge but all the
arts, including the art of government.

In Mr. Roosevelt's day the two governments, government by business and
political government, existed side by side, of about equal proportions;
and no one really wished either to overtop the other. We were indulging
in revolution with our customary prudence.

The human passion for equality which had risen against the last of those
dominant figures, the last and greatest of the pioneers, and started to
set up representatives of the public as great as they were, was
singularly fortunate in its first manifestations. It "found a man," in
that most amazing jack-of-all-trades, Mr. Roosevelt.

If business had its array of extraordinary personalities, the rival
establishment had its Roosevelt, who surrounded himself with a shining
group of amateurs, Mr. Root, Mr. Knox, General Wood, James Garfield, Mr.
Pinchot, Mr. Knox Smith, the "Tennis Cabinet," to all of whom he
succeeded in imparting some vividness from his own abounding
personality. If pioneers from the days of Daniel Boone on have been
romantic, amateurs are equally romantic. It was romance against romance.

The balance between the two governments did not last long. Government by
business was declining. It was being extruded from the control of
political affairs. Political government was rising. It was reaching out
to control certain phases of business itself. The great pioneers of
national industry were growing old. They were becoming self-conscious,
vaguely aware of changing circumstances, casting about for solider
foundations than "mere money getting," buying art and writing books,
establishing foundations, talking foolishly about their "divine right,"
about the crime of "dying rich."

A race of gamblers came in their train who caricatured their activities.
The great figures who were passing took long chances magnificently,
pioneer fashion, "to strike it rich," to found industries or magnify
avenues of trade. Their imitators, the Gateses, Morses, Heinzes,
and ---- took long chances vulgarly for the excitement there was in them.

Railroads had to be "rescued" from them. Wall Street had to organize its
Vigilantes against them.

I went as a reporter to see ---- once in New York and found him in his
library drinking. He sent for his servant, ordered six bottles of
champagne at once, and after his man had gone opened the whole six, one
after another, on his library rug. He had to exhibit in some way his
large manner of doing things, and this was the best way he could think
of at the moment. He belonged to a fevered race, intoxicated with the
idea of bigness, juggling millions about to no more useful end than
that of pouring champagne on a carpet. They were the _reductio ad
absurdum_ of the pioneer.

The public no longer put its faith blindly as before in those romantic
figures, the great industrial pioneers, those Mississippi River pilots
who knew every rock and reef in the river. Stripped of much power and
prestige, no longer looked to without question for the safety of the
country, that magnificent species, the great pioneer, disappeared. It is
as dead and gone as that equally magnificent species the Mississippi
pilot of Mark Twain's day.

The legitimate succession was the dynasty--it was the dynasty that
destroyed belief in the divine right of kings--of the second generation,
of the younger Stillman, of the younger Rockefeller, competent but
unremarkable, of the younger Morgan, more capable than the rest,
doubtless, but compare his countenance with the eagle mien of his

I used often to discuss with Mr. Roosevelt the members of the dynasty.
He had no illusions. We both knew well a second-generation newspaper
proprietor, a young man of excellent character, as prudent as the
earlier generation had been daring, a petty King who always had an
aspiring Mayor of the palace at his elbow, inclined to go to sleep at
his post from excessive watching of his property. As we would go over
the names in the dynasty, Mr. Roosevelt would say almost invariably: "I
can't describe him better to you than to say he's another ----," naming
our mutual acquaintance, one of the many of his sort into whose hands by
inheritance the control of business has descended.

Whatever the reason is, whether the inertia of large organization and
the weakening of competition have favored the remaining in power of the
second generation, whether we have evolved but one great type, the
pioneer, whose day is past, and have not yet differentiated the true
business man any more than we have differentiated the true statesman;
whether that psychological change which I have sought to trace, that
denial of freedom which once was the pioneers'--the new laws, the hard
restraints operating now upon business as upon everything else and
enforcing conformity--there are today no Titans, no one stealing fire
from the heaven of Progress for the benefit of the human race--unless
Henry Ford--no Carnegies, Morgans, Rockefellers, Harrimans, of the
blessed nineties.

The old sureness is gone. The great pioneers were never assailed by
doubts: they went straight forward, wearing the blinkers of a single
aim, which kept their eyes like those of harnessed horses in the narrow
road; God was with them, Progress was with them, Public Opinion was with
them, the government at Washington was with them.

But their successors, like everyone else, look over their shoulders and
see the shadows: see the government at Washington and attach a comic
importance to that bewildered figure; just as the government at
Washington looks over its shoulder and sees at New York the government
by business, its traditional master, and wishing a master, is unaware
that the twilight of the gods is come. And both see that greatest of all
shadows, Public Opinion, the new monster of Frankenstein which everyone
feeds with propaganda, and fears. These three things were all one in the
bright days of the great pioneers, and in that perfect unity everyone
was sure, so sure, and the few were free, so free!

Business no longer imposes itself up on the imagination through its
extraordinary personalities. In vain do we seek to recover the past. In
vain does the popular magazine fiction strive to furnish what life no
longer does--the pioneer ideal, the hero who overcomes fire and flood
and the machination of enemies and moves irresistibly forward to
success, who believes in himself, whose motto is that the will is not to
be gainsaid, whose life is one long Smile Week.

Vast propaganda exists to hold us true to the old faith; we read it as
we used to read Sunday School fiction; but religion only sought its way
into hearts within the covers of E. P. Roe when other channels began to
close. We beat the bushes for the great, the kings that should come
after Agamemnon. Monthlies of vast circulation tell us of every
jack-of-all-trades who hits upon a million dollars. This one found out
how to sell patches for automobile tires. That one was an office boy who
never knew when it became five o'clock in the afternoon. Our faith
requires vast stirring.

To the gradual weakening of the idea that business was all-wise and
all-powerful, the war greatly contributed. Before 1914 men would say
confidently, "Ah, but business, the bankers, will not let the nations
fight. They have only to pull the strings of the purse and there will be
no money for the fighters." After hostilities began they would say with
equal confidence: "It will be all over in six weeks. The bankers will
not let it go on."

Business was, however, not only powerless to prevent war but it stood by
impotent while the very foundations on which it itself rested were
destroyed. One illusion went.

Then again, during the war unorganized private production failed.
Publicly organized production was immensely successful. Governments the
world over showed that the industrial mechanism could be made to run
faster and turn out more than ever before. The illusion that business
was a mystery understood only by initiates, the men "'big' financially,"
was shaken.

After the war was over the government organization for regulating
production was abandoned. A period of chaos, rising prices, speculation,
wasteful production, of luxuries, ensued and then a crash. One may
explain all that happened in both cases on the basis of the war. But
business needed triumphs to restore its old place in the public
consciousness, and it has had instead a catastrophe.

The weakness of business today is its division. Many financial leaders
saw the depression that would follow peace. Frank A. Vanderlip, for one,
came back from Europe in 1919 full of warnings. He counselled
moderation. He urged deflation instead of further inflation. His advice
was unpopular with those who saw profits from a sudden withdrawal of
wartime restraints. And the consequence of his prudence, according to
what he has told his friends, was his being forced to retire from the
Presidency of the great Wall Street bank of which he had been head.

Henry Ford, moreover, is a destroyer of old illusions. He "defies
economic laws." He does what business says is impossible. In a day of
high prices he produces at an unprecedentedly low price. He does not cut
wages. He finds a market where there is no market. To lower his costs he
needs cheaper steel than he can buy, so he manufactures it himself
cheaper than the great steelmakers can manufacture it. He operates
independently of the "big business" group. Mr. Morgan sends for him and
he declines to go. He grows vastly rich, proving that all the knowledge
the men "'big' financially" have of the mystery of business is no
knowledge at all, only rules made in their own interest.

And business never twice answers the same question in the same way. One
week Mr. Morgan and the international bankers come to Washington and
tell Mr. Harding that American credit must go into foreign trade. The
next week equally "big" bankers from the interior visit the capital and
tell the President that American credit must stay at home developing
American industries. It is the same with the tariff. It is the same with
the taxes. Business is not of one mind about anything.

A politician recently described business on errands of advice to
Washington. "One bunch of fat boys with high hats and morning coats
comes to Washington. The Administration holds out its nose wishing to be
led by it. The fat boys decline the nose. They are not leading anybody.
In deprecatory manner they say: 'Please drive North. We think that is
the way.' They go. The next day another bunch of fat boys in high hats
and morning coats arrives. Again the offer of the nose. Again the
declination. And this time: 'Please drive South. We're sure that is the

The government strains its ear to catch the word from Wall Street. But
there never was a time when business had less influence at Washington
than now. It is divided in its own mind, it is ruled by second-rate men.
Of two governments that have occupied a place in the popular
consciousness, government by business and government by parties, I do
not know which is weaker. I do not know which has less unity and
capacity to function, the Republican party or big business.



When we became doubtful, as pioneering drew to a close, that business
served a social end; when, becoming jealous of its great and
irresponsible power, we started to set up an equal or greater authority
in Washington, we followed the line of least resistance; we did the easy
and obvious thing; we had recourse to a one man government.

We magnified the office of President and satisfied that primitive
instinct in us which must see the public welfare and the public safety
personified in a single individual, something visible, tangible,
palpable. The President speaks and you read about him in the daily
press; the President poses and you see him in the movies and feel
assured, as in smaller realms under simpler conditions people were able
to see their monarch dressed and equipaged in ways that connected him
with all the permanence of the past, a symbol of stability, wisdom, and
the divine favor.

If the trappings are lacking, imagination and the emotions supply their
moral equivalent. Of our little temporary king no one must speak evil;
no voice may be raised in criticism.

His wife, up till some fourth of March an elderly country woman grown
dull in the monotony of village life or worn with the task of pushing an
unambitious husband forward to power, looking her most natural when in
the frankness of early morning unpreparedness she ran in her apron
across the street to gossip with the wife of a neighbor, becomes to the
awed eyes of Washington women, quite "beautiful." You hear them say it
of every--let us quote the illuminating phrase--every "first lady of the

When Burke said that aristocracy was the most natural thing in the world
he did not go half far enough. The most natural thing in the world, the
thing which is always repeating itself under no matter whatever form of
government exists, is an autocracy. In national emergencies, in times of
peril, people put their fate in one man's hands; as in the late war when
Mr. Wilson was made by common consent a greater autocrat than any Czar
of all the Russias.

The herd instinctively follows one authority. The mob is single-headed.
All the traditions of the race lead back toward despotism and it is
easier to revert toward something primitive than to go forward toward
something higher in the scale of development.

And, moreover, the vital contacts of our lives are with authority
imposed from above. Our childhood is controlled by the autocracy of the
family. Education disposes of our hours, forces our inclinations,
represses our individuality, and turns us out stamped with a uniform
mark, the finished product of its unvarying course. The single head of
the classroom is the teacher. The single head of the school is the
principal, of all the schools the Superintendent.

More important still, our economic lives are at the disposal of
autocracy. We earn our livings under foremen and managers. Everywhere is
the boss who says to us "Do this or starve." He represents to us not
only authority but wisdom. The organization out of which proceeds to us
the beneficent results of food and clothing operates because he is
endowed with a knowledge which we have not. "He knows about it all, he
knows, he knows."

In all the essential everyday relations of life we have never been able
to evolve any higher organization than that of the chieftain and his
tribe. We read about democracy in the newspapers; once every two years
or every four years we go through certain motions which vaguely relate
to democracy, and which are not convincing motions.

Democracy is an artificial edifice imposed upon a society which is in
all other than its political aspects entirely primitive. All our direct
experiences are of one man power. It is the only organization we
actually know at first hand. We trust to it for the means to live. We
revert to it politically whenever it becomes an issue of life and death,
and even in lesser emergencies.

So it came about that when we determined to have a government at
Washington independent of and better representing the social will,
whatever that might come to be, than the government of business we had
recourse to that one form of rule which is ever present in our
consciousness, the only form under which the race has lived long enough
to have any real faith in it.

The new social ideal had not sufficiently taken form to utilize all the
complex institutions which existed in this country. Business was at that
time intrenched in Congress. It would have been a huge, an impossible
task, to re-make Congress, especially when no one knew definitely what
purpose should animate the re-making. It was so much easier to find one
man than to find many men. It is so much easier for a people which does
not know where it is going but means to go there to choose one man, and
by an act of faith endow him with the divination of leadership, than it
is to have a national will and express it through numerous

The amplified executive is a sort of blind pool of the national
purposes. Creating an autocracy is an act of faith; democracy is work.
And faith is so much easier than work.

We did not think of it thus, as an exhibition of political inertia, as a
reversion to an outworn type. On the contrary, we were immensely pleased
with our innovation. As usual the United States had made an immense
contribution to the art of government. We were repeating the race
history of governments, as a child resumes in his life the race history
of the human kind. We had got so far as to evolve that oldest of human
institutions--autocracy, a mild, denatured autocracy. But we were as
proud of it as a boy is when he put on paper with a pencil the very
picture which his stone age ancestor cut laboriously into a walrus

Our President had more power than the King of England, we boasted, more
than the Emperor of Germany. The monarchies of Europe were obsolete
because they preserved autocracy out of the darkness of the Middle Ages.
Our government was in the forefront of progress because it had created
autocracy out of the suffrage of the people.

And how clever we were with the restrictions of our written constitution
with its exact balance of powers, executive, legislative, and judicial.
The Fathers had builded wiser than they knew in writing an instrument by
which the carefully distributed authority might be well reconcentrated;
as if they were the first to use words whose import depended on the
point of view of those who interpreted them!

Acres of space in the newspapers were covered with gratulatory articles
proving that the dominating executive was the inevitable unifying
principle in our disjointed and not otherwise workable government.

Ours was a government by parties, so the argument ran, and the President
was the head of his party. As a matter of fact the writers of the
Constitution had not conceived of a government by parties. What they had
in mind was what they had before them in the Constitutional Convention
of which they were a part, a government by the best and ablest men of
the community, who should meet together and select the executive; who
should equally through the state legislature choose the Senators. The
role of job brokers was the last thing they imagined themselves to be
creating. Parties came later. Ours was not originally a government of
parties. It is hardly a government by parties today. So there was
nothing inevitable about this great reason why the Executive should be
the element in our system which would hold it together and make it work.

Nor until the beginning of this century did it ever occur to us that the
President was the head of his party. The control of the organization had
been in other hands, in Hanna's or Quay's or Cameron's, or divided among
a group of men like these three, who represented the interests of
business in the parties, and often also in the Senate.

The idea that the executive was the party's head was merely a happy
afterthought which was adopted to justify the resort to the line of
least resistance in creating a stronger government at Washington, the
concentration upon one man to represent the national will. We had simply
done what other peoples had so often done in the history of mankind.
When the English wished to weaken the rule of the great barons they
magnified the office of the King. When we wished to get away from the
rule of the barons of business we magnified the office of our elective
King, the President. We invented new reasons for an old expedient.

And by making the amplified executive the head of his party, which we
did--for the Quays and Hannas speedily disappeared under the new order
and left no successors--we set him to sawing off the limb on which he
sat. If his authority rested on that of his party then to be firm the
authority of the party must be firm. For parties to endure and be strong
there must be a certain quality of permanence about them. They must not
rest upon personalities but on principles and jobs, principles for the
disinterested and for those whose interests are expressed in the
principles, and jobs for those whose interests are less large and

Of parties with the executive as their head nothing remained but their
name. The only nexus there could be between the executive and the mass
of voters was personal. One year a party was Roosevelt, the next year it
was Taft and the distance between Roosevelt and Taft was the distance
between East and West. A little later it even changed its name and voted
in another column because Roosevelt had adopted a new party name and
gone unto a new column. Four years later it split up and much of it went
to Wilson, who temporarily rallied a personal following just as
Roosevelt had done.

And because the dispensing of jobs was an unseemly occupation for the
executive we reduced by law the patronage that was available for the
sustenance of parties. Thus we substituted personal caprice for the
permanency of parties and at the same time cut down the practical means
of holding organizations together. At the same time the decay of
government by business left parties no longer an instrument of the
economic will of the nation.

Thus the executive headship was wholly inconsistent with government by
parties, upon which our magnified President was supposed to rest. A
further inconsistency was that we adopted another theory for
strengthening one man power. This was that the President was the leader
of the people. Have we a government by parties there? Not at all; the
power of the executive rests upon something outside of and superior to

If the legislative did not respond to pressure he might "go to the
people," as it was called, through the newspapers and upon the stump. He
might discipline the recalcitrant by stirring up public sentiment
against them. He might build up a personal following to such an extent
that his party must have it in order to win. He might encourage the
movement away from parties by attaching people to ideas and measures,
policies that the party had declined to accept. In this theory of
executive power it was conceded that parties were not to be trusted. In
the other it was held that they were a necessary link between the
dissociate branches of government.

It is no exaggerated notion that executive control of parties
contributed to the disintegration of party government. It is nothing
more than a statement of what actually happened. Roosevelt broke up the
Republican party nationally. He left it with its name covering an
agglomeration of groups and blocs and personal followings, supporters of
various interests difficult to reconcile, whose votes fluctuate from
year to year.

Mr. Hughes, the same kind of executive and party leader as governor of
New York, left the Republicans of that state in the hands of the little
local banditti. Mr. La Follette, following the same methods as Governor
of Wisconsin, left no one in that state definitely a Republican or a
Democrat. Every voter there is the personal follower of some chieftain.

And what virtue is there in the theory that the Executive alone
represents the national point of view, that he alone speaks "for the
country?" Political inertia always finds good excuses.

There are reasons why the President should try to represent the country
as a whole, since he is elected in a nationwide balloting. But there is
no reason why he should succeed in representing the country as a whole,
why he should have a national point of view.

Why should Mr. Harding have a vast understanding of national problems
and a clear sense of the country's will? A little while ago he was a
Senator, and the supposition that the Executive alone has the national
point of view implies that a Senator has not that point of view. Mr.
Harding is chosen President and immediately upon his election by some
magic virtue of his office he is endowed with insight and imagination
which he did not possess as Senator.

Mr. Harding is a good average President, a typical President, whether of
the United States or of a business corporation, just the kind of man to
put at the head of a going concern where a plodding kind of safeness is
required of the executive. We shall do well, should our standards of
public life remain what they are, if we have three Presidents superior
to Mr. Harding in energy or originality of mind, during the whole of the
coming century. But why should Mr. Harding understand or represent the
national point of view?

Mr. Harding lived his life in the indolent comfortable mental
atmosphere of a small town. His horizon was narrow and there was no
force in him which made him seek to widen it. His public experience
before coming to Washington consisted of brief service in the Ohio State
legislature and a term as Lieutenant-Governor of Ohio. His service in
the Senate at Washington was short and it was beginner's work,
undertaken in the spirit of a man who finds the upper house a pleasant
place in which to pass the latter years of a never strenuous life.

His point of view on national problems was a second-hand point of view.
He knew about them what his party had said about them, in its platforms,
on the stump, in the press. He accepted the accepted opinions. No magic
wrought by election to the Presidency could make of him or of anyone
else a great representative of the national purpose or endow him or
anyone else with deep understanding of national problems.

Of recent Presidents Mr. Taft failed so completely to understand his
people and express its will that after four years in office he could
command the support of only two states when seeking re-election. Mr.
Wilson after four years had so far failed that only the incredible
stupidity of his opponents enabled him to succeed himself; and again so
far, that his second term ended in a tragedy. The floundering of Mr.
Harding is apparent to every eye.

Only under two Presidents has the theory of executive domination of the
Government succeeded, and not completely under them. Congress rose
against Mr. Roosevelt in the last year or two of his administration.
Congress was not of Mr. Wilson's party, and was thus out of his control
in the last two years of his administration. Mr. Taft lacked the will to
rule. Mr. Harding is feebler than Mr. Taft, and party authority, one of
the pillars of executive power and responsibility, is now completely
broken down. A system which is successful only half the time cannot be
called workable.

Let us examine the circumstances under which the Executive was able to
prevail over Congress and effect a limited sort of one man government.
They are not likely soon to repeat themselves.

Mr. Roosevelt was an extraordinary personality. Only Andrew Jackson,
among our Presidents, was as picturesque as he, only Andrew Jackson had
a popular following comparable to his.

Both of them represented strong democratic movements,--Jackson the
extrusion of the landed aristocracy, in favor of the masses, from their
preferred position in our political life; Mr. Roosevelt, the similar
extrusion of the business aristocracy, in favor of the masses from the
preferred position they had gained in our political life. Like
agitations of the political depths, finding expression in personalities
as unusual as those of Jackson and Roosevelt, will give us from time to
time executives who may carry everything before them; but only
emergencies like this and one other will make the President supreme.

And even then it is easy to overstate the power of the Executive as it
was exercised by Mr. Roosevelt. The Colonel lived by picturesque
exaggeration. If he went to South America it was to discover a river and
find animals that the eye of man never rested on before or since. He
read more books than it was humanly possible to read and not become a
pallid bookworm. He pursued more interests than mere man can have. He
exercised daily as only a pugilist exercises briefly when in training.

He had the gusto of the greatest amateur of all time and enjoyed the
immunity which is always granted to amateurs, that of never being
measured by professional standards. When you might have been noting a
weakness in one direction he was diverting you by an enormous exhibition
of versatility in another. He had the capacity of seeming, and the
semblance was never penetrated. He seemed to bestride Washington like a
Colossus. Actually his rule was one long compromise with Aldrich and
Cannon, the business leaders of Congress, which he represented as a
glorious triumph over them.

One man government was developed much further under Mr. Wilson than
under Mr. Roosevelt, Mr. Harding's predecessor entered office as the
expression of that movement toward a government based on numbers rather
than on wealth, which the Colonel had so imperfectly effected. There had
been a reaction under Taft; there was a new determination under Wilson,
and a new concentration on the executive.

Poor, bookish, without the friendships in the business world which Mr.
Roosevelt had had, having few contacts with life, Mr. Wilson embraced
the idea of putting business in its place passionately, where Mr.
Roosevelt played with it as he played with everything else.

Mr. Wilson was by temperament an autocrat. An illustration of how
personal was his government was his treatment of his enemies. His
bitterness against Huntington Wilson, the Republican Ambassador to
Mexico, is well known. A year or two after the dispute was over,
Huntington Wilson's son came up for examination to enter the Consular
service. He passed at the top of the list. President Wilson heard of his
success and directed that he should receive no appointment. He carried
his enmity to the second generation. The law which would have given
young Mr. Wilson a place meant nothing under his personal government.

As Anatole France says of Robespierre, he "_était optimiste qui croyait
á la vertue_." Those who are "optimists and believe in virtue," remarks
the French author, end by killing men. Wilson in a revolution would have
conducted a Terror, as indeed during the war he did conduct a sort of
legal terror among pacifists and radicals. Roosevelt belonged to the
other school in the conduct of affairs which Anatole France praises
because it never forgets that men are "_des mauvais singes_." In a
revolution Roosevelt would have cut off no more heads than would be
necessary to make a good show.

Moreover, when Mr. Wilson entered office his party had been long out of
power. Its leaders in the House and Senate were not firmly established.
Unlike Cannon and Aldrich, of the Roosevelt day, they did not represent
business in the national legislature. They had no authority except the
purely factitious authority created by the accident of seniority. They
were easily dominated from the White House.

Coming into power at such a moment, possessing such a temperament,
representing such a popular movement, Mr. Wilson readily became the most
perfect example of the concentrated executive that we have yet had. But
even his one man government was attacked from the outset. His
personality proved repellent. An intellectual is so unfamiliar an object
in America as to seem almost a monstrosity, and his ascendancy would not
have lasted beyond two years if the war had not come.

War is the other great cause that leads to autocracy in popular
governments. In times of common danger we revert to the herd with the
single leadership. We resort to the only form of rule of which we have
any experience in our daily lives, the only form in which the race has
yet developed any lasting faith. From the time when war threatened, with
the invasion of Belgium, till the time when it ended with the armistice,
Mr. Wilson became what any President may become under like
circumstances, what Mr. Wilson's temperament especially fitted him to
become--an absolute dictator.

When we think of the powerful executive as the natural development of
the American system, imparting that unity to our government which the
makers of the Constitution in their zeal for checks and balances refused
to give it, we are over-impressed by the phenomena of Roosevelt and
Wilson and do not make sufficient allowances for the conditions which
made their power inevitable. So impossible is it for authority to remain
permanently in the hands of the executive that we are now witnessing its
spontaneous movement away from the White House--toward, well for the
moment I should say, toward nowhere.

A distinguished alienist tells me that the desire for power over your
fellow man is an unmistakable sign of paranoia, not necessarily paranoia
amounting to insanity, but the same kind of paranoia which makes history
amusing. If that is true, then we are in an era of perfect sanity at
Washington. No one, no one, in the White House, in the Capitol, in Wall
Street, the capitol of business, or back among the home folks, as far
as I can learn, wants power--and responsibility.

The picture I have drawn, quoting a bright young observer at the capital
of what happens when Business arrives in Washington is the picture of
our whole present national political organization. "A bunch of
tall-hatted fat boys comes. The governmental nose is thrust out awaiting
the guiding hand. The guiding hand is put unostentatiously behind the
back." It is the same when the organ of leading is extended from the
White House for the hand of leadership at the Capitol, or, as happens,
as often the organ of leading at the Capitol awaits the hand of
leadership at the White House.

Power is in transition and we do much inconsistent thinking about where
it is and where it should be. We deliberately elected a weak executive,
to retrieve the blessed days of McKinley, the old equilibrium and
co-ordination of the equal and co-ordinate branches of our government.
Yet when things go badly in Congress, as they mostly do, the critics
exclaim that the President should be firm and "assert his authority" on
the hill. Mr. Harding himself said, over and over again, "This is no one
man job at Washington." Yet we read that his face assumes a "determined
expression"--I have myself never seen it--and he sends for the leaders
in Congress.

We haven't executive domination and we haven't anything in its place.
We voted to go back to the nineties, but we haven't got there. There is
no Mark Hanna speaking for business and for party to make the system
work. We have the willessness of the blessed days in our National
Heartbreak House, but we haven't the will somewhere else to act and
direct. Not even seven million majority is enough to bring back the
past. In spite of "landslides" the course is always forward, and I use
"forward" not in the necessarily optimistic sense of those who were once
so sure of Progress.

The initiative, so far as there is any, has passed to Congress.

And so far as I can see, it is likely to remain with Congress, until
some new turn of events brings us back the strong executive. For, after
all, Congress chose Mr. Harding. The Senators picked him at Chicago.
With party bosses gone, they are about all that remains of the party,
and there is no reason why they should not go on naming Presidents. And
the power of presidents will not rise much above its source.

The autocratic President goes inevitably the way its prototype the
autocrat went. The loins that produce them are sufficiently fertile.
Primogeniture brought forth feeble kings. The nominating system called
on for a great man every four years yields many feeble ones. There will
be many Hardings to one Roosevelt or Wilson. Party government which
might reinforce a feeble president is weak. Government by business has
lost its confidence and authority. The great discovery of the first
decade of this century for making this government of ours work is
already in the discard.

So at a critical moment when government by Progress and government by
business have broken down, government by one man at Washington has also
gone. The war made the autocratic executive in the person of Mr. Wilson
intolerable. It also destroyed the basis for national concentration upon
the executive.

We need a new picture in our heads of what government should be, what
its limits should be when it faces such vital problems as interfering
with God's time, and where its authority should center. We have none.



We now pursue further the search for authority. We shall surely find
"divine right" somewhere, now that business has lost it. Someone
certainly has the final word about the pictures to put in our heads. Ah!
there is the public, the imputation of a miraculous quality to whose
opinion has a curious history.

Everybody agrees that we owe most of the pleasant illusions upon which
this democracy of ours is based to Rousseau. This Swiss sentimentalist
about humanity, whose ideas have so profoundly affected the history of
the last century and a half, was a convinced believer that perfect good
sense resided in the bosom of the natural man, the man "born free and
equal" of our Declaration of Independence.

Rousseau could find this simple wisdom which was his delight in the most
unexpected places. He describes his mistress Thérèse with whom he lived
many happy years: "Her mind is what nature has made it; cultivation is
without effect. I do not blush to avow that she has never known how to
read, although she writes passably. When I went to live in the Rue Neuve
des Petits Champs I had opposite my windows a clock face on which I
tried during several months to teach her to tell time. She can scarcely
do it even now. She has never known in their order the twelve months of
the year, and she does not know a single figure in spite of all the
pains I have taken to explain them to her.... But this person, so
limited and, if you wish, so stupid, has excellent judgment on occasions
of difficulty. Often in my troubles she has seen what I did not see
myself; she has given me the best advice to follow. She has pulled me
out of dangers into which I rushed blindly.... The heart of my Thérèse
was the heart of an angel. (_Le coeur de ma Thérèse était celui d'un

It would be amusing to trace our belief in the good sense of man, in the
wisdom and justice of public opinion, back to a philosopher's delight in
a female moron; but that would be too great a paradox for a serious
discussion of today's crisis in popular government. The truth probably
is that Rousseau reached _a priori_ the conclusions about the sound
sense of the simple and natural man that captivated a society so simple
and natural as our own was in the eighteenth century, and then stumbled
upon such convincing evidence in the person of Thérèse that he had to
keep it by him all the rest of his days.

And where after all has there been found any better evidence for our
belief in the soundness and justice of public opinion than was furnished
by the unlettered and unteachable Thérèse, who had "le cœur d'un ange"
and "devant les dames du plus haut rang, devant les grands et les
princes, ses sentiments, son bon sens, ses réponses et sa conduite lui
out tiré l'estime universelle"?

To accept the doctrine of the rightness of public opinion you must
believe that there resides in every man, even in the most unpromising
man, of the mental level of Thérèse, "si bornée et, si l'on veut, si
stupide," the capacity to be, like her, "d'un conseil excellent dans les
occasions difficiles."

The doctrine of the rightness of public opinion, however, never required
proof. It was a political necessity. The world at the time when modern
democracies had their birth accepted government only because it rested
upon divine right. The government of men by mere men has always been

The new democracies which were to take the place of the old kingdoms had
to have some sanction other than the suffrages of the people. Room had
to be found in them somewhere for divine right. Those who established
the modern system could never have sold self-government to the people as
self government. There had to be some miracle about it, something
supernatural, like that marvel which turned a mere man into a King and
gave him that power of healing by touch which was exercised in Galilee,
so that the laying on of his hands cured the king's evil.

The miracle was accomplished somewhere in the process through which your
opinion and my opinion and Thérèse's opinion became public opinion. Just
as the anointment or the coronation turned a mere human being by a
miracle into the chosen of God ruling by divine right, so by some
transmutation which does not take place before the eyes, mere human
opinion becomes itself the choice of God, ruling by divine right.

If you doubt that the founders of modern democracy had to carry over
into their systems the old illusions about divine right, read what
Thomas Jefferson, more or less a free thinker, quoted by Mr. Walter
Lippmann in his _Public Opinion_, has to say about the divine basis for
popular government: "Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people
of God, if ever He had a chosen people, whose breasts He has made His
peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue. It is the focus in
which He keeps alive that sacred fire which might otherwise escape from
the earth."

That "deposit for substantial and genuine virtue" was public opinion.
Nothing was lost of the sanctions of monarchic government when we
changed to popular government.

Since the days of Jefferson we have ceased to be an agricultural people
and we can no longer derive the authority of our government from the
Rousseauist notion that the farmer, being near to nature, thrusting his
hands into the soil, was the choice of God and ruled by a kind of divine
right. But "aucune réligion n'est jamais morte, ni ne mourra jamais."

Let us examine the doctrine of Jefferson. Public opinion ruled by divine
right because, in this country and in his day, it was the opinion of
farmers, who were "the chosen people of God whose breasts He has made
the peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue."

When we ceased to be a nation of farmers did we abandon the basis of our
government in divine right? Not in the least. We broadened our ground to
cover the added elements of the community and went along further with
Rousseau than Jefferson had need to do; we said that the breasts of all
men "He has made the peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine
virtue." The art of uncovering their substantial and genuine virtue,
this quality in Thérèse which drew down upon her universal esteem for
her good sense and her sound sentiments, is the art of arriving at
public opinion.

The legend of public opinion is thus accounted for; first, you will
observe, it was politically necessary to assert the inspiration of
public opinion, for divine right had to reside somewhere. Second, in a
democracy the press and public men had to flatter the mass of voters and
readers by declaring on every possible occasion that wisdom reposed in
their breasts. And third, the public mind differed so from the ordinary
thinking mind that, to put its conclusions in a favorable light, men had
to assume some supernatural quality, some divine "deposit for
substantial and genuine virtue."

The public did not think, in the ordinary sense, yet its decisions were
more right than the carefully elaborated decisions of those who did
think; the wonder of Thérèse over again, who "si bornée et si stupide"
gave such excellent advice on difficult occasions. No processes by which
results were reached could be perceived by the trained mind. The mystery
of the public mind was as great as the mystery of intuitions is to the
logical or the mystery of poetry is to the prosaic. Clearly, a miracle;
clearly, a deposit for substantial and genuine virtue.

When modern democracy got its start, kings by their folly had shaken
faith in their divine right. In a similar way at this moment, public
opinion by its excesses has made men question whether any "deposit for
substantial and genuine virtue" has been placed in human breasts upon
which states may rely for justice and wisdom.

Walter Lippmann's book, _Public Opinion_, with its destructive analysis
of the public mind, is a symptom of those doubts with which the war has
left us. The years from 1914 on furnished the most perfect exhibition of
public opinion and its workings that the world has ever seen. You saw on
a grand scale its miraculous capacity for instant formation and, if you
are sufficiently detached now, you look back and doubt whether what was
revealed was a "deposit for substantial and genuine virtue."

Both sides to the conflict resembled nothing so much as prehistoric
tribes meeting accidentally in the night and, precipitated into panic,
fighting in the belief that each was being attacked by the other.

Public opinion in France and England felt that the war was defensive.
Public opinion in Germany was equally sure that Germany was only
defending herself. Either the German Thérèse or the French Thérèse and
the English Thérèse and the American Thérèse must have been wrong. The
fight could not have been defensive on both sides. And if Thérèse is
ever so wrong as this, the whole case of the divine rightness of public
opinion falls.

And not only do we know that some Thérèse, perhaps all the Thérèses,
made a mistake in this instance, but we have come to feel that whenever
danger arises Thérèse is inevitably wrong; her mind, such as it is,
closes up and she fails to show those _sentiments_ and that _bon sens_
which drew down the applause of the princes and the persons _du haut
rang_ who have been praising the deposit of virtue that she carries in
her breast.

We have watched the course of Thérèse confronted by other and smaller
fears since the close of the war, and we have reached the conclusion
that Thérèse always reacts a certain way. In that large range of
situations which may be artfully presented to her simple mind as perils
she is no longer _d'un conseil excellent_; her heart _d'un ange_
hardens; she abandons her babies quite unfeelingly at the hospital of
the _Nouveaux Nés_.

Therefore you do not reach the "deposit for virtue" by simply employing
an intelligence unencumbered by mental processes. You must at least
assure that intelligence against fear, a serious limitation upon the
doctrine of an infallible public opinion.

Students of public opinion will for a long time go back to the period of
the war for their materials. Opinion was then unmistakable. The methods
by which it was formed were clear. In times of great peril men throw off
their polite disguises and are frank; so too are institutions.

The making of opinion became an official function in which we all
co-operated. We bound ourselves voluntarily not to publish and not to
regard any information inconsistent with the state of mind which it was
deemed expedient to create and maintain. We probably always in the
forming of opinion tacitly impose voluntary censorships, but they are
so habitual, so unconscious, so covered with traditional hypocrisy, that
it is difficult to bring them into the light.

Conscious self-deception to the good end of keeping ourselves united and
determined was during the war a great virtue. Playing upon prejudice,
rousing the depths of the primitive mind in man, was a laudable act of

What happened then was only an exaggeration of what happens all the
time, for war makes no new contributions to the art of self-government.
In war we merely throw off the restraints of peace and impose others
which operate in the reverse direction. In peace we are shamefaced about
direct killing; in war we brag of it. In peace we are shamefaced about
manufacturing public opinion; in war it is our patriotic duty.

No, war has made us rather doubtful about Thérèse. After all Rousseau
was a prejudiced witness. When you take to your bosom a lady who cannot
learn to tell time by the clock, you have to make out a case for her--or
for yourself. When like Jefferson and his successors you take to your
bosom the public, you have to make out a case for it, for the deposit
for substantial and genuine virtue that you rely upon.

The war revealed at once the immense power and the immense dangers of
public opinion when its full force is aroused and one hundred million
people come to think--thinking is not the word--to feel, as one man.
Minorities, the great corrective in democracy, disappeared. They had
their choice of going to jail or bowing to the general will.

Few realized this alternative, so irresistible was the mob impulse,
awakened by the sense of common danger, even to individuals ordinarily
capable of maintaining their detachment. The primitive instinct of
self-preservation subdued all capacity for independent thinking, so that
one who has ordinarily the habit of making up his own mind, a most
difficult habit to maintain in modern society, can not look back on
himself during the war without a sense of shame. Romain Rolland, in
_Clérambeault_, pictures the devastating effect of public opinion at its
mightiest upon the individual conscience.

The mechanism by which this state of mind was created was unconcealed.
The government reserved to itself the right to suppress truth or to put
out untruth for the common good. Private organizations of endless number
co-operated to this laudable end. The press submitted itself to a
voluntary censorship, passing the responsibility for what it printed
over to society whose general end of maintaining unity for the real or
imaginary necessities of self-defense it served. A lynch law of opinion
was established by common consent.

What went on during the war goes on, though less openly and less
formidably, all of the time. Everyone realizes the immense power of
public opinion. Many seek to direct its formation. The government
conducts all of the time a vast propaganda, always with a certain favor
of the press.

We submit always to a certain voluntary censorship, not so conscious as
that which existed during the war but none the less real. We receive
upon the whole the information which is good for us to receive. We are
all a little afraid of public opinion, its tyranny, its excesses, its
blind tendencies. We do not find it, as Jefferson thought we should, a
"deposit for substantial and genuine virtue," and we are all more or
less consciously trying to make it one; that is the process of rendering
modern democracy workable; but we may not be all unprejudiced about what
the deposit should be or scrupulous about the means of improving it.

The part which the press plays in this process is peculiar. When editors
or correspondents meet together the speaker addresses them invariably
as, "You makers of public opinion," but the last responsibility which
journalism cares to assume is the making of public opinion.

This disinclination began with the exclusion of the editor's opinion
from the news columns. Gradually, it extended to the exclusion of his
opinion from the editorial pages and finally to its exclusion from his
own mind. I am speaking only of tendencies, not of their complete
realization, for there are notable exceptions among the greater dailies
of this country.

This movement is at its strongest in the nation's capital, for official
Washington likes to live in an intellectual vacuum, and journalism
strives successfully to please. With the world crashing about his ears
the editor of the _Star_, the best newspaper in the capital, finds this
to say:

"The Crown Prince of Japan and the Prince of Wales are young men
destined for great parts in world affairs. They are now qualifying for
their work.

"Last year the former took his first look around in the occidental
world. He was everywhere most cordially received, and returned home
informed and refreshed by what he had seen and heard. His vision,
necessarily, was considerably enlarged.

"The latter is now taking his first look around in the oriental world.
In a few days he will land in Japan and be the guest of the country for
a month. The arrangements for his entertainment are elaborate, and
insure him with a delightful and a profitable visit. That he will return
home informed and refreshed by his travels is certain.

"The war has produced a new world, which in many things must be ordered
in new ways. Young men for action; and here are two young men who when
they get into action and into their stride will be prominent and
important in the world picture."

But if a newspaper rigidly excludes its editor's opinions from its
columns, it is singularly hospitable to all other opinions. The
President twice a week may edit the papers of the entire country, or Mr.
Hughes may do it every day,--or Mr. Hoover or Mr. Daugherty for that
matter, even having extended to him the privilege of anonymity which
editors used to keep to themselves, as a device for giving force and
effect to their ideas.

The President "sees the press" Tuesdays and Fridays, volunteering
information or answering questions. Mr. Hughes holds daily receptions.
Everyone else big enough to break into print follows the same practice.

A curious modesty prevails. Every public man loves to see his name in
the newspapers, yet no one of them at these conferences will assume
responsibility for what he says. All of them resort to the editorial
practice of anonymity.

The rule is that the correspondents must not quote Mr. Harding or Mr.
Hughes or anyone else.

They must not write "Mr. Harding said" or "Mr. Hughes said." They must
print what Mr. Harding or Mr. Hughes said as a fact; that is, they must
put the authority of their paper behind it or, if they doubt, they must
assign for it "a high authority," thus putting the authority of their
paper behind it at one remove.

The editor, having excluded his own opinions from his news columns,
opens his news columns to Mr. Harding's or Mr. Hughes's opinions, giving
no guide to the reader whether he is printing fact or opinion, and, if
obviously opinion, as to whose opinion it is.

The rule is, nothing but news in the news column. The news is, "Mr.
Harding said so and so." But what is printed is, "so and so is a fact"
or, "so and so the paper believes on unimpeachable authority to be a

This official control of news columns goes further. Not only, according
to the rules, must the source of certain information be regarded as a
confidence but essential facts themselves may not be disclosed.

One of the most remarkable uses of the news columns to create public
opinion was that of Attorney-General Palmer whose several announcements
of red revolution in the United States startled the country two years
ago. A series of sensational plots was described. Very soon every
intelligent correspondent felt sure that Mr. Palmer was largely
propaganding. But to say so would have been to violate that law against
the expression of opinion in news columns, so essential to the truth and
accuracy of our press. Moreover, if my memory is correct, somewhere in
the series the Attorney-General told the press, in confidence, that he
was putting forth his stories of revolution for a purpose. But one does
not print confidences.

In this case the news was that Attorney-General Palmer was issuing
stories of discovered revolutionary plots to combat a certain radicalism
in the labor movement. As printed it was that Attorney-General Palmer
said--he permitted his name to be used--that he had discovered
revolutionary plots.

But the uncritical reader does not ask himself whether the
Attorney-General may not be lying. And even if he were inclined to do so
the headline throws him off his guard, for in the limited space
available for captions, mere assertions tend to become facts. As it
reached the reader's mind the fact that Mr. Palmer was avowedly issuing
propaganda became the fact that evidences of a great Bolshevist plot
against our institutions were being discovered almost daily.

There are disadvantages in the official editing of news columns. The
official does not always escape by shifting responsibility to the
editor. The British during the Washington Conference introduced an
improvement. They put out propaganda which had no authority at all. This
the newspapers either had to leave out or to print on their own

Lord Riddell had "no official connection with the British delegation."
He had moreover a perfect alibi. There was Sir Arthur Willert, the
official spokesman, who knew nothing and told nothing. Riddell's was a
private enterprise. He was just a journalist willing to share with
other journalists what information he collected. Just a journalist?
Well, it was true that "Lloyd George had asked him to stay on" when he
was on the point of departing. But that was a confidence and under the
rules the press does not print confidences.

Riddell's disclosures were perfectly timed. The best of them came out in
the morning when afternoon correspondents must either rush them through
as facts--they could not even say "on the highest authority"--or explain
to their editors why they had been beaten by their rivals.

Riddell is one of the British Premier's intimates. A lawyer turned
newspaper proprietor, he brings out the _News of the World_, a London
Sunday publication, sensational and trashy, of which 3,500,000 copies or
some such preposterous number are sold. He started in during the war as
a spokesman for the British Premier. He kept it up at the Paris
Conference. And at Washington he scored his greatest success.

What he had said at his seance was, "Now, of course, I don't know, but I
imagine the Conference will do thus and so." He was delightfully
irresponsible, having no official connection. He could leak when he had
anything to leak. He could guess, near the truth or far from the truth,
for, after all, he was only "imagining." He joked. He indulged in
buffoonery. He put out propaganda when he wished. But he mixed enough
truth with it all so that the correspondents thronged his meetings. So
far as there was publicity at the Conference, he was that publicity.

There was nothing of the great man about him. He did not pretend to be a
statesman. He did not take himself seriously. He reached out for his
public in the same undress way that he does in his Sunday newspaper.
"Ex-tra-ter-ri-to-ri-al-ity," he would say, "that's a long word. I never
heard it before I came here." "Kow Loon, where is the place anyway?" You
felt that for the British Empire these places and issues were

He was familiar, quite inoffensively. "The highly intelligent seal of
the Associated Press--was it Mr. Hood here?--must have been under the
table in the committee room when he got this story. He knows more about
it than I do." He was humorous. "The Conference means to do good and,
according to the well known rule--what is it?--Oh, yes! 'Cast your bread
upon the waters'--and by--er--a certain repercussion we all expect to

It was not said cynically. It was no effort to be funny. It was natural
and inevitable. Lord Riddell himself did good to the press, and by a
certain repercussion the British Empire benefited. It was a publicity
"stunt" that has never been equalled. Never before did one man have
world opinion so much in his hands. Only Riddell's personality, his
friendliness, his apparent disingenuousness, his trifling, enabled him
to exercise his power--these and the immense demand for publicity, where
aside from his there was little.

[Illustration: LORD RIDDELL]

The hospitality of news columns is not extended to officials alone. A
vast industry second only to that of news collecting has been built up
for the purpose of conveying opinions to readers in the guise of news.
Its constant growth is a proof of its success.

The reason for the opening of newspaper columns to it is commercial. A
variety of interests and opinions tends to reflect itself, as at Paris,
in a multiplicity of newspapers. The American newspaper proprietor has
avoided competition by steadily restricting the expression of opinion
first in the news columns and then on the editorial page, so as to
offend as few of his readers as possible, and then opening his news
columns to opinions which he could not approve on his editorial page,
provided they could be disguised as news.

But the faults of public opinion as a governing force do not spring from
an uncritical journalism, conducted in haste and under compulsion to be
interesting rather than adequate, too little edited by its editors and
too much edited by others. The trouble with Thérèse is her lack of mind.
In spite of her good sense and habit of giving excellent advice she is
_bornée et, si l'on veut, stupide_. We do not find in her what
Rousseau was convinced he found in her, "a deposit for substantial and
genuine virtue."

We know more about the public mind today than Jefferson did when he
wrote about it. We have studied the psychology of the mob and we know
that the psychology of the public is not different. Like the mind of
Thérèse, the public mind has never grown up; with this difference, that
the mind of Thérèse never could grow up and the mind of the public, we
hope, will.

The public mind is young. Only for a very few years in the history of
the race has there been any such thing as a conscious public. Jefferson
was right in thinking that its mind was not the sum of the individual
minds: nevertheless, it is not a "deposit for virtue." Men act in a mass
quite differently from the way they act as individuals, only
unfortunately there is not any necessary divine rightness about the way
they act: there is often divine wrongness.

We have built up the machinery for converting one hundred million widely
scattered people into a public, for giving it a sense of community, but
we have not at an equal rate built up a public mind.

With the telegraph, the wireless telephone, the standardized press, the
instant bulletin going everywhere, we can stir the whole people as a
mob, make it revert into a frightened herd, but we can not make it

The public is too young to have a developed mind. In a hundred
generations it may have one.

This experiment in democracy is conducted in the faith that it will have
one, that the mass of mankind may be lifted up so that there will be as
much freedom of thinking in a democratic society as there once was in an
aristocratic society. It is the bravest experiment in history but its
success is afar off, Rousseau's belief in Thérèse to the contrary

In the present state of undeveloped mind and overdeveloped machinery of
communication public opinion is a great negative force. It does nothing
constructive. It can only be thoroughly aroused by a suggestion of
danger. Statesmen are both afraid of it and despise it, and between
contempt and fear are reduced to temporary expedients.

So that when we speak of government by public opinion we speak of
something that has been as badly shaken as government by business, or
executive government or party government or any one of the various
governments upon which we once relied. The war has made it almost as
intolerable as it made autocracy, as practiced by Mr. Wilson.

Shall official Washington turn to public opinion as its guide? Official
Washington is busy all the time with all the arts it used during the war
shaping public opinion to its own ends. It must have been hard for a
king's minister to believe in the divinity of the monarch he was
gulling. And at any moment public opinion may belong to Mr. Hearst.

This new ruler by divine right is not going to be so easy to dethrone as
his predecessors. No new Rousseau will discern a new Thérèse. Mr. Walter
Lippmann would set up in its place the expert by divine right, but the
expert is a palpable pretender.

The best hope for the present moment is perhaps to divide the public.
Minorities based on interest will at least be constructive. Organized,
they may offer an effective resistance. Out of them may come a
development of the public mind.

If Jefferson were writing today he might say that the farm bloc
contained the "deposit for substantial and genuine virtue." At any rate
it tills the soil.

If we break up the threatening mass which the war has taught us to fear,
there might be organized a thinkers' bloc. Thinking in this country
certainly needs a bloc.



The conditions which face Mr. Harding are like those which face the
administrator of a corporation left by its old head and creator to the
direction of an incompetent son. The young man is the nominal master of
the business. He lacks confidence in himself and what is worse still his
wife and mother lack confidence in him. They have fortified him with a
brother-in-law as a right hand man. His brother-in-law knows little of
the business and can never forget that he is the creature of his sister
and her mother-in-law.

The administrator of this corporation wishes to obtain a decision upon
policy. The proprieties require him to consult its nominal head. The
young man, unsure of himself, must talk it over with the mentor whom his
wife and mother have provided. He in turn proves no final authority but
must discuss the question with his sister. Ultimately the widow who owns
most of the stock must be approached. She hires others to run the
property, wonders why they do not run it. The very fact that the others
could reach no decision makes her cautious about reaching one herself.
The administrator goes vainly about this circle seeking for a "yes" or

The government was simple when the public had faith in the social
purposes of business and public opinion did not differ greatly from
business opinion. Parties reflected the will of business. Authority was
centered. Whether you said it resided in parties or in business or in
public opinion made little difference. There was substantial agreement.
A "yes" or "no" was easy.

Suppose Mr. Harding should be in doubt, as he is so often--today. He
asks himself what is party opinion, what is business opinion, what is
public opinion, or what is the opinion of some powerful minority which
may turn an election against him.

His party has no opinion; it exists by virtue of its capacity to think
nothing about everything and thus avoid dissensions. Business is of two
minds and is moreover afraid of the public. It will assume no
responsibility. Public opinion, what is it? Mr. Hearst's newspapers? Or
the rest of the press? Or the product of the propaganda conducted from
Washington? Or something that Mr. Harding may create himself if he will?
Minority opinion is definite, but is it safe? Where is authority?

A return to those happy days when authority did center somewhere, when
in conducting the business you did not have to run around the whole
circle seeing the young man, his wife, his brother-in-law, and the widow
who inherited the property, is our constant dream. Let us get back to
party government, exclaimed Mr. Harding; so the nation voted to do so,
only to find there were neither parties nor party government.

Let us, then, it is suggested, found some new party that will "stand for
something," that will synthesize in one social aim, the common element
in the aims of various interests into which the country is divided. But
no one can point out the common basis, the principle which the new party
shall advocate.

Let us then have a better informed public opinion. Mr. Walter Lippmann
in his new book upon the subject, despairing of the press, would put the
making of public opinion in the hands of experts, collecting the truth
with the impartiality of science.

We seek unity as perhaps the builders of Babel sought it after the
confusion of tongues fell upon them.

One favorite hope of attaining it is through a new synthesis of business
and politics. Government by business had worked. Let us return to Eden.
Let us elect a business man President. One may substitute for President
in this last sentence Governor or Mayor or Senator or Congressman, for
whatever the office is, this recipe is always suggested.

Thus, so it is piously hoped, we may get back to those good old times
before we builded for ourselves this Babel, a government that was
independent of business, parties that were independent of everything
under the sun, voters that were independent of parties, a press that was
independent, a propaganda that was independent, and blocs that knew no
rule but their own.

Elect the business man to office, so it is felt, and you will have an
important synthesis, an old and tried one, one that worked, business and
politics. You will do more. You will import into public life all that
wonderful efficiency which we read about in the _American Magazine_,
that will to power, that habit of getting things done, that instant
capacity for decision which we romantically associate with commercial
life. All this is in the minds of those who urge this method of
achieving unity.

We have no greater national illusion than the business man illusion. In
any other country a business man is just a business man; in America he
is a demigod. Golden words, as Mark Twain said, flow out of his mouth.
He performs miracles. He has erected a great industry and amassed a
large fortune. Therefore he would make a great public official. We never
think of him as merely a specialist having a narrow aptitude for heaping
up money.

The reasoning about the business man is this. Success, real success,
comes to the jack of all trades, a major premise handed down from
pioneer days. "A" is a real success, for he has made several millions.
Therefore "A" is a jack of all trades. Therefore he would be as great a
President as he is a shoe button manufacturer.

We owe the business-man illusion to the pioneers. In a few years they
subjected a continent to our uses. They accumulated for themselves
wealth such as the world had never seen. The nation does not think of
them as the luckiest of a generation facing such virgin resources as
existed on no other continent, at a moment when means of transportation
such as the world had never seen before, and machinery for manufacture
without parallel were in their hands. The marvelous element was not the
opportunity but the men.

One day they were telegraphers, day laborers, railroad section hands and
the next they were colossal figures of American enterprise. As their
like existed nowhere else they became the American type. They
established the tradition of American business.

It has been a tradition profitable to keep alive. The men who by luck,
by picking other men's wits, or by the possession of a special talent,
useful only in a society like our own, grow vastly rich, love to read
how wonderful they are. For their delectation a journalism has grown up
to celebrate the epic of their marvelous industry, resourcefulness,
efficiency, their god-like insight into the hearts of men; whose praises
they pay for liberally in the disposition of advertising. Young men who
would be great read this journalism diligently looking for the secret of
success. Reading it they resolve not to keep their minds upon five
o'clock when the closing whistle blows but to become rich by industry
and thrift like its great exemplars; who profit by it not only in having
their own praises sung but in getting more work out of their servants.

So much virtue rests upon the business-man illusion that no one would
lay an impious finger on it. I merely analyze it to exhibit the contents
of our minds when we say "elect a business man President," and to
present the picture of a demigod out of the _American Magazine_ in the
White House, and a new synthesis of business and politics.

Moreover, we let ourselves be misled by the habit of speaking of the
"public business" and accepting without examination the analogy which
the word suggests. We say to ourselves, "Well, since government is a
business, the proper person to be in charge of it is a business man."
But it is not business in any exact sense of the word. If the product of
the operation were a mere bookkeeping profit or even mere bookkeeping
economies then it might properly be called a business. But that which
business efficiency in office, if it could really be obtained, might do
well, is the least part of self-government, whose main end must for a
long time be the steady building up of the democratic ideal.

But the electing of business men to office does not build up this ideal.
On the contrary it is a confession of failure in democracy, an admission
that public life in it does not develop men fit for its tasks, that for
capacity it is necessary to seek in another world and summon an
outsider; establish a sort of receivership in self-government.

And it is a blind sort of receivership. We know little about business
men except the noisy disclosures of their press agents. "X" has made a
million dollars. If we no longer say, as in the days of Mark Twain, that
golden words flow from his mouth, we accept his wealth as proof positive
of his extraordinary capacity for affairs. There is no going behind the
fact of his vast accumulation, for business is conducted in secret. The
law recognizes that it has to be, keeping in confidence facts disclosed
through income tax returns.

When we consider a successful business man for office no allowance can
be made for the fact that the intelligence responsible for his success
may not have been his as head of a successful organization. In no way
may it be asked and answered whether all the original force which was in
him may not have been spent before he is suggested for office. Senator
Knox was an instance of spent force, his energy and ambition being gone
when he entered public life.

Luck may explain a commercial career and you cannot elect luck to
office. Special talents which are valuable in making money may be out of
place in political life.

Moreover commercial success in America has been easier than anywhere
else in the world. Opportunities are numerous with the result that
competition has not been keen. Nothing has been so over praised or so
blindly praised as business success in this country. We may occasionally
elect men in public life to office upon false reputations, as we did
Vice-President Coolidge, crediting him with a firmness toward the Boston
police strikers which had been shown by a subordinate in his absence.
But at least the acts of officials are subject to popular scrutiny.
Behind success in business we may not look.

Take the case of a Middle Western corporation. Three quarters of its
profits came from a subsidiary. The history of the subsidiary is this:
The corporation came into possession of certain mineral lands through
the foreclosure of a mortgage. A company developing a product from the
mineral failed. The head of the corporation acquiring the property by
foreclosure thought this product of little value. A subordinate felt
that it could by a change of name and judicious advertising be widely
sold. He had great difficulty in persuading his employer but in the end
obtained the money to make his experiment, whose results fully justified
his judgment. The public seeking a business man for office would look no
further than at the success of the corporation, which would be proof
sufficient of the great talents of its head. Electing him they would not
obtain for public service the mind which made the money, even if it be
agreed that the talent for making money is a talent for public service.

And this case: A great Eastern trust acquired possession of a piece of
property in this way: It uses a mineral product not much found in this
country. Some Westerners had a deposit. They went to the Eastern trust,
which encouraged them and loaned them $10,000 for its development. They
then found that the trust was the only market for the mineral and that
it had no intention to buy. Ultimately this deposit passed to the trust
by foreclosure of the $10,000 mortgage. The trust thus obtaining
ownership, began mining and in the first year cleared $500,000 on its
$10,000 investment. The transaction in this instance was not the work of
a subordinate; it revealed, however, a peculiar talent in the head of
the corporation that would not be serviceable in public life.

To get down to names. Many business men entered the service of the
government during the war. Almost none of them left it with enhanced
reputations. Mr. Frank A. Vanderlip, who served in the Treasury
Department, had little success, so the men who surrounded him felt. I am
not able to assess the causes of his failure. Perhaps he had assigned to
him an impossible task.

Similarly men who had contact with him while financing the Republican
campaign of 1916 were disappointed. After his service at Washington he
ceased to be head of a great Wall Street bank. What do these adverse
circumstances mean regarding Mr. Vanderlip's fitness to be, let us say,
Secretary of the Treasury? Precisely nothing, let us admit. And his
success for a number of years in banking, the large fortune he
accumulated, by the same reasoning, mean no more.

Mr. Vanderlip is one of our best known business men, yet what the public
knows about him is nothing. He was the president of a great bank and
amassed wealth. An old financial journalist, he has gift of speech and
writing, unusual in the business world. His agreeable personality made
him liked by editors. He achieved unusual publicity. Was his reputation
solidly based or was it newspaper made? The public does not know, cannot
know. I use his case by way of illustration. Perhaps he ought to be
President of the United States. But choosing a man for office on the
basis of his business success, even so well known a man as Mr.
Vanderlip, is plainly enough blind gambling.

We have in office now one of the great business men of the country. Mr.
Andrew W. Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury, who is posed somewhat
uneasily upon what is, many say, the highest pile of wealth any one has
ever heaped up, except Mr. John D. Rockefeller. I say "somewhat
uneasily" because I have in mind Mr. Mellon emerging from a
Congressional hearing at the Capitol, flustered and uncomfortable,
turning to a subordinate and asking anxiously, "Well, did I make a good
impression?" What could a subordinate reply except, "Yes, Mr. Mellon,
you did very well."?

But Mr. Mellon does not make a good impression on the witness stand. If
he were unjustly accused of a crime he would hang himself by appearing
in his own defense, unless the jury sensed in his stammering hesitancy
not guilt but an honest inability to express himself.

Mr. Mellon is the shyest and most awkward man who ever rose to power. He
is unhappy before Congressional committees, before reporters in the
dreadful conferences which are the outward and visible evidence of our
democracy, at Cabinet meetings, where the fluent Mr. Hughes casts him
terribly in the shade.

At one such meeting the President dragged him forth from silence by
turning to him and asking him, "What has the Sphinx here got to say on
the subject." Thus impelled, the Secretary of the Treasury replied,
unconsciously in the words of Sir Roger de Coverley, "Well, Mr.
President, I think there is a good deal to be said on both sides."

If we may believe the psychologists, the great object of acquiring
wealth and power is the achievement of self-complacency. If it is, Mr.
Mellon has somehow missed it. You can not imagine him writing himself
down beside the others in the great American copy book and saying
seriously to the youth of the land, "Look at me, I worked always fifteen
minutes after the whistle blew and behold the result. Follow my
footsteps." No golden words issue from his mouth. Some unforgetable
personal measure of his own deserts, some standard peculiar to himself,
perhaps, refuses to be buried under the vast accumulations.

Were ever great abilities so tongue-tied as this? I ask this question
not to answer it. I merely hold Mr. Mellon up as the usually insoluble
riddle, the why of great business success. But granting that the real
Mr. Mellon is shown in the enormous fortune and not in the timid asking
of a subordinate, "Did I make a good impression?" does such shrinking,
such ill adaptation, on the stage of public life make a contribution to
the unending drama of self-government?


I take it that behind these footlights which we call Washington, just as
behind the literal footlights, the actors, if there is to be any lifting
of us up, must play a part with which we can identify ourselves in our
imagination. He must be articulate. He must get across. Mr. Harding
does it admirably. You watch him and you realize that he is the oldest
of stage heroes, Everyman. You say to yourself unconsciously, "Only the
accident of seven million majority separates him from me." You are
lifted up. Ordinary flesh and blood can do this great thing.

Based on this desire to identify ourselves with greatness is our
familiar aphorism, "The office makes the man." All that is necessary is
the office to "make" the least of us.

Roosevelt played the part even better than Mr. Harding, "an ordinary man
raised to the nth power." He strutted to fill the eye. He was the
consummation of articulateness. The point is that self-government must
be dramatic or it does not carry along the self-governors.

Of course one must not overlook the fact that "the great silent man" is
a consolation to common inarticulateness and ineffectiveness, the
general belief that where there is a slow tongue profundity is found
being one of those pleasant things which we like to think about
ourselves--"we could and we would." But after all there is a sense of
pity about our kind attribution of hidden power to dullness. We are half
aware that we are compensating.

Anyway, even if the great business man is at home upon the stage, which
Mr. Mellon is not, the calling of him to office interrupts the drama of
self-government. We admit our failure and call in the gods from another
world. It is as I have said a staged receivership. We can not identify
ourselves with the hero. We are poor worms, not millionaires. We might
have the seven million majority but we could not also stand upon a pile
of seven million gold dollars. Government ceases to be human. It becomes
superhuman. And self-government must be human.

Of course, I exaggerate. Mr. Mellon coming from that other world is not
wholly without his human relations. I have alluded to his symbolizing
the wish-fulfilment of the inarticulate, and the inarticulate are many.
He does more. He fits admirably into what Mr. Walter Lippmann has called
in his new book one of our popular stereotypes. We demand a conflict
between reality and the stage. We like to see the masks pulled off our
actors. One of our best received traditions is that a man who has a
fight with the politicians has performed a great service. We like to see
our strutters strut in a little fear of us.

But Secretary Mellon's defeat of Representative Fordney, Senator Elkins,
and Elmer Dover in their efforts to fill his department with politicians
was not so much a sign of power as a measure of the difference between
Mr. Mellon's world and theirs.

Mr. Mellon comes into the Treasury from his bank. All he knows is
banking, not politics. If he went from the Mellon Bank to the National
City Bank of New York he would not discharge all the National City Bank
employees and bring in a lot of men who had never seen the inside of a
bank before, whom he did not know, who didn't speak the same language
that he did. It is only in politics that one finds such perfect faith in
man as man.

He goes to one young Democrat in the Department--this actually
happened--and he says, "Young man, I like your work. I want you to stay
with me," "Ah, but, Mr. Mellon, I can't," plead this Democrat, "You
really can't do things that way. It is not done. You will have all the
Republican politicians about your ears."

But it was not a sense of power in Mr. Mellon that made him thus defy
the conventions. It was merely the instinct of self-protection. He could
not live in the atmosphere of politics. He had to do things as he always
had done them. The Gods coming down from high Olympus among the sons and
daughters of men were probably never as much at ease as the Greeks made
them out to be.

With his millions behind him Mr. Mellon was a solid object in his
conflict with the politicians. Without them one does not know what would
have happened between him and Mr. Fordney, Mr. Elkins, and Mr. Dover.

What is a good Secretary of the Treasury? We have a stereotype about
that, too, one slowly and painfully formed. A good Secretary of the
Treasury is one who has seen the inside of a bank, who has read the
books on finance and knows the rules. Originally our Secretaries of the
Treasury were amateurs, like our generals who beat ploughshares into
swords. When one got into trouble, he boarded the Congressional Limited
for New York and saw Mr. Morgan. Mr. Morgan came out of his bank holding
the safety of the nation in his hands, exhibiting it to reporters who
wrote all about it, assuring the public.

At length it was decided to keep the safety of the nation at Washington.
And our Secretaries of the Treasury tended to become professional. The
young men who tell us whether we have a good Secretary of the Treasury
or not are the financial writers of the newspapers. The Secretary acts.
The young men look in the books and see that he has conformed to the
rules. When he has he leaves nothing to be desired as Secretary.

Mr. Mellon's relation to Alexander Hamilton is the same as Marshal
Foch's relation to Napoleon; one knew war from his own head, the other
knows it from the teachers. Mr. Mellon's administration is not inspired.
In the greatest financial crisis in our history he has no constructive
suggestion to make. You would hardly know that Secretary Houston was
gone and Mr. Mellon had come. And there is an explanation for this
continuity, beside that of the rule books. The hard work of the
Department has been done under both administrations by Assistant
Secretary S. P. Gilbert, for Mr. Mellon has the successful man's habit
of leaning heavily upon an able and industrious subordinate. Mr. Gilbert
is an ambitious young lawyer who has mastered the books and who works 18
hours a day. The voice is the voice of Mellon but the hand is the hand
of Gilbert.

I have analyzed Mr. Mellon at Washington although only a small fraction
of his career is involved and although he operates in the difficult
circumstances of an unknown and unfavorable environment. But he is
perceptible in Washington, he does appear before Congressional
Committees and at newspaper conferences. You can study the Gilberts who
surround him. You can estimate the prepossessions that enter into our
judgment of him. You can measure him against the standard of public

In Pittsburg he is more remote. He is hedged about with the secrecy of
business. He is to be seen only through the golden aura of a great
fortune, sitting shy and awkward upon an eminence, the product of forces
and personalities which can only be guessed at.

He was the son of a banker and inherited a considerable fortune. He
operated in a city which expanded fabulously in the course of his
lifetime. If he is shy and unbusiness-worldly, he has a brother who has
that force of personality which we usually associate with fitness for
life. His bank was the chosen instrument of Henry C. Frick, one of the
pioneer demigods, who could make the business reputations of men who
proved adaptable to his uses.

Thus into the result there enters the power of Frick, the thrust upward
of Pittsburg, an industrial volcano, the associated personality of the
other Mellon. You have to give a name to all this combination of
favoring circumstances and favoring personalities and names are usually
given arbitrarily. The name given in this case is Andrew W. Mellon. But
how much of it is Andrew W. Mellon and how much of it is Pittsburg, how
much of it Frick, how much of it brother Mellon, an electorate seeking a
business man for office can not stop to inquire and can not learn if it
does inquire.

If the people elect a man like Mr. Mellon to office they do not enlist
in the public service the combination of persons and forces which is
known by his name. Or if he is all that he seems to be, measured by his
great fortune, perhaps they get him after he has spent his force or
after his head is turned by success, or at any rate they put him into an
unfamiliar milieu and subject him to that corrupting temptation, the
desire for a second term or for a higher office.

And to go back to what I have said before, they make self-government go
into bankruptcy and ask for a receiver.

The great business-man President is just a romantic development of the
great business-man illusion.



Mr. Mellon's associates in the Cabinet were most of them chosen on
substantially the same principles as he was, namely, that success in
business or professional life implies fitness for public life. We have
no other standard. The present Cabinet is an "exceptionally good"
Cabinet. Many of its members are millionaires.

Some of them owe their place to the rule that those who help elect a
President are entitled to the honor, the advertising, or the
"vindication," of high public office.

That is to say, the same considerations that rule in the selection of
Senators rule in their selection. They were recruited from the class
from which Senators are recruited. I can not say the mental level of the
Cabinet is above that of the Senate. Take out of the upper house its two
strongest members, its two weakest, and half a dozen of the average
sort, and you construct a body in every way equal to the Cabinet of Mr.
Harding in intelligence and public morals.

Most of them, never having been members of the upper house, have not
suffered from the depreciation in the public eye which attends service
in the legislative branch. They come rather from the wonderful business

There are, moreover, few of them compared to Senators. Smallness of
numbers suggests careful selection, superior qualifications.

And the secrecy of Cabinet meetings makes them impressive. If reporters
were present, the public would realize that the Cabinet as a Cabinet was
mostly occupied with little things.

The records prove it.

The biweekly meetings of the Cabinet are commonly followed by the
announcement: "The Cabinet had a short session today. Nothing of
importance was discussed"; or, "Details of administration were
discussed." Now, of course, reasons of state may occasionally restrain
the disclosure of what actually was the subject before the Cabinet. Yet
Mr. Harding's administration has been in office more than a year, and
how many important policies has it adopted? How much wisdom has emerged
from the biweekly meetings?

Sample announcements of the Cabinet meetings run like this: "The Cabinet
listened to the Postmaster General, explaining how much it would
facilitate the handling of the mails if people would distribute the
mailing of their letters throughout the day, instead of keeping most of
them to mail late in the afternoon when they are leaving their offices.
The Postmaster General pointed out that the government departments were
offenders in this respect." Useful; but why should the whole nation worry
about who advises with the President over the inveterate bad habits of
the people as letter writers?

Or this: "The Cabinet spent an hour and a half today discussing what to
do with the property left in the government's hands by the war. There
are millions of dollars' worth of such property." A mere detail of
administration, but it came before the Cabinet as a whole because more
than one department was left in control of the property.

Moreover, you may estimate the importance of cabinets from the fact
that, after all, every administration takes its color from the
President. Mr. Wilson's administration was precisely Mr. Wilson. Mr.
Harding's is precisely Mr. Harding.

Listen to the experience of a Cabinet adviser. One of the most important
Secretaries was explaining to some friends a critical situation. "But,"
interjected one of the listeners, "does President Harding understand
that?" "The President," replied the Secretary, "never has time really to
understand anything."

And remember how Secretary Hughes told the President that the Four Power
Pact covered with its guarantees the home islands of Japan, and how a
couple of days later Mr. Harding informed the press that it did not
cover the home islands of Japan; when it transpired that the information
of Mr. Hughes on this point had effected no lodgement in the President's

The Presidential mind; that is the bottle neck through which everything
has to pass.

Suppose we had today the greatest statesman that this country has ever
produced as Secretary of State. Let us say Alexander Hamilton, for
example. What could Alexander Hamilton do as the head of Mr. Harding's
Cabinet? We shall assume that Alexander Hamilton had the mind to grasp
the problem of this country's relations to the world and of its interest
in the world's recovery from the havoc and the hatreds of the war, and
the constructive imagination to reach a solution of it. What could
Alexander Hamilton do? His avenue of approach to world problems would be
Mr. Harding. All that was in the mind of Alexander Hamilton, Secretary
of State, would have to pass through the mind of Warren G. Harding,
President, before it would become effective.

The passage through would be blocked by many obstacles, for Mr. Harding
has a perfectly conventional mind; that is why he is President. One of
the pictures in Mr. Harding's head is the mechanistic, the God's Time
picture. "Things left to themselves will somehow come out all right."
Another is the racial inferiority complex. "Man is inadequate to attempt
control of his own destiny. There are the forces to be considered." A
third is the great business-man illusion. Mr. Morgan going abroad to
consider reparations may accomplish the wonders which mere statesmen can
not. All these induce avoidance of responsibility, and Mr. Harding has
the human liking for avoiding responsibility. Pressed by Mr. Hamilton,
Mr. Harding would say: "But I can not move the Senate." Pressed further,
he would say: "There is Public Opinion. We shall lose the election if we
become involved in European affairs. You and I know those Allied war
debts are worthless, but how can we make the people realize that they
are worthless?"

Like the rest of us, Mr. Harding perhaps has none of these pictures so
firmly in his head as before the war; but the damage to the pictures
only makes him more vacillating. I am assuming in all this that Mr.
Hamilton has a free mind, which he had, relatively, when he operated a
century and a half ago. At that time he had not to think much of Public
Opinion or of parties. And the mechanistic theory of Progress, that
things come out all right with the least possible human intervention or
only the intervention of the business man, had not then assumed its
present importance.

"Mind," says a nameless writer in the _London Nation_, "is incorrigibly
creative." It has created so many vast illusions like those above in
the last century and a half that like the American spirit in Kipling's

    "Elbowed out by sloven friends,
    It camps, at sufferance, on the stoop."

Where our actual Secretary's mind falls short of our supposititious
Secretary's mind is in the valuable quality of common sense. I am even
prepared to maintain that as a measure of reality Mr. Hughes's mind is
distinctly inferior to Mr. Harding's, which is one reason why he never
did become President and Mr. Harding did. I can not better explain what
I mean than on the basis of this quotation from a recent book of Mr.
Orage, the British critic:

"Common sense is the community of the senses or faculties; in its
outcome it is the agreement of their reports. A thing is said to be
common sense when it satisfies the heart, the mind, the emotion and all
the senses; when, in fact, it satisfies all our various criteria of

Mr. Hughes has only one criterion of reality, his mind, which has been
developed at the expense of all his other means of approach to the
truth. He lives in a region of facts, principles, and logical
deductions. He does not sense anything. And only men who sense reality
have common sense. For Mr. Hughes facts are solid; you can make two
nice, orderly little piles of them and build a logical bridge over the
interval between them. A true statesman builds a bridge resting on
nothing palpable, and nevertheless he crosses over it.

Mr. Hughes's mind operates in a region of perfect demonstration; he even
demonstrates things to himself. A true statesman never succeeds in
demonstrating anything to himself; he uses demonstration only in dealing
with others. Yet he arrives in other than logical ways at a sureness for
himself which is never Mr. Hughes's. For the Secretary of State
statesmanship is an intellectual exercise, for the true statesman it is
the exercise of a dozen other faculties. An extraordinary but limited
mind, Mr. Hughes impresses us as the boy lightning calculator does, and
leaves us unsatisfied.

Take Mr. Hughes's handling of Mexican relations as an example of what I
have called statesmanship made a purely intellectual exercise. The
practical result which was to be desired when Mr. Hughes took office was
stability and order in Mexico, the safety of American property there,
and a restoration of diplomatic intercourse.

Mr. Hughes does not seek to obtain these results. Instead he works out
the following problem: _a_ + _b_ = _c_, in which _a_ is the fact that
Carranza had issued a decree making possible the confiscation of
American property in Mexico, _b_ is the principle of international law
that at the basis of relations between peoples must be safety of alien
property, and _c_ is a note to Mexico.

Mr. Hughes was excited over the perfection of this intellectual
operation. He read his note with all the jubilance of the Greek
philosopher who, having discovered an important principle of physics,
exclaimed: "Eureka." Mr. Hughes's Eureka is always a piece of paper. He
is a lawyer whose triumphs are briefs and contracts.

Now the facts were not merely that Carranza had made an offensive
gesture, issuing the famous decree; but that Mexico had not confiscated
American property and lived in such fear of her strong neighbor that she
was never likely to do so, that the Mexican supreme court had ruled
confiscation to be illegal, that the Obregon government was as stable
and as good a government as Mexico was likely to have, and that it was
to our interest to support it morally rather than encourage further
revolution there. They all pointed to recognition.

The validity of the piece of paper that Mr. Hughes demanded of Obregon
would rest upon international law. But so did the validity of our right
to have our property in Mexico respected. We should not be in any
stronger legal position to intervene in Mexico if she violated the
contract Mr. Hughes wanted, than if she violated our property rights
there unfortified by such a piece of paper. Both rested on one and the
same law.

Furthermore, Mexico being weak and sensitive, an arbitrary demand that
she "take the pledge," such as Mr. Hughes made, was sure to offend her
pride, and delay the consummation everyone wished--stability across the
border and a restoration of good relations. Yet Mr. Hughes was immensely
satisfied with his intellectual exercise _a_ + _b_ = _c_, _c_ being not
a solution of the Mexican problem, which at this writing is still afar
off, but a piece of paper, a note to Mexico. The sheer logical triumph
of the deduction of _c_ from _a_ and _b_ is to Mr. Hughes an end in

Now, of course, it is not wholly overdevelopment of mind at the expense
of the other criteria of reality which leads Mr. Hughes to vain
exercises like _a_ + _b_ = _c_. He has what a recent writer has
described as "an inflamed legal sense." He has, moreover, by an
association of ideas all his own oddly transferred to law that
sacredness with which he was brought up to regard the Bible. "Sanctity
of contracts," is his favorite phrase, the word "sanctity" being highly
significant. He has, besides, Mr. Harding over him, and the Senate to
reckon with. And in the case of Mexico he has as a fellow Cabinet
member, Mr. Fall, the picture in whose head is of a "white man" teaching
a "greaser" to respect him. He has to think of winning elections, of his
own political ambitions. All these inhibitory influences which generally
produce negation do not estop Mr. Hughes. His mind is too vigorous for
that. It pursues its way energetically to results, such as _a_ + _b_ =

Now, of course, the handling of Mexican relations is not Mr. Hughes's
major achievement. But even his major achievement, the Washington
conference with its resultant nine pieces of paper, was more or less a
lawyer's plea in avoidance.

The major problem which confronted Mr. Hughes was this: The Great War
had been followed, as Mr. H. G. Wells aptly says, by the Petty Peace. It
was threatening, and still threatens, to flame up again. The problem of
a real peace confronted Mr. Hughes, because Mr. Wilson had sought to
establish one and failed, and had thus set a certain standard of effort
for his successor. Moreover, Mr. Hughes had said that every man, woman,
and child in the United States was vitally interested in the economic
recovery of Europe.

Mr. Hughes had either to face this task or divert the mind of the court
to some other issue. He chose to find his _a_ + _b_ = _c_ elsewhere. The
problem of establishing peace where there was war was difficult; perhaps
it was too hard for any man, but has not humanity--I say humanity
because it is Mr. Harding's favorite word--has not humanity the right to
ask of its statesmen something more than timidity and avoidance? The
problem of establishing peace where there was peace, in the Orient, was
relatively easy.

The war had left the great sea powers with excessive navies and
insupportable naval budgets. All wanted naval limitation. It was only
necessary to propose an agreement for reduction to have it accepted.

Even the dramatic method of making the proposal, with details of the
tonnage to be scrapped, was not Mr. Hughes's idea. Let us do the man in
the White House justice. He conceived it on the _Mayflower_; read it to
Senator James Watson who was with him, and wirelessed it to the State

There was the further problem, the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. Mr. Hughes
wanted it ended. Japan and England wanted it substituted by a compact
which should be signed by its two signatories and the United States.

All that Mr. Hughes had to do to establish peace where there was peace
was to offer an agreement upon naval armament and accept the
Anglo-Japanese plan for a wider pact in the Pacific. The details would
involve discussion, but the success of the general program was assured
in advance.

The conference was called, hurriedly, because, as Mr. Harding once
explained, if he had not hastened someone else would have anticipated
him in calling it. This shows how obvious was the expedient. The idea of
naval limitation was no more original than the idea of the conference.
Mr. Borah had proposed it. Lord Lee had proposed it, in the British
Parliament. The idea of the Four Power Pact was made in England--it had
long been discussed there--and brought over by Mr., now Lord, Balfour.
He laid it at Mr. Hughes's feet.

Mr. Balfour sought no triumphs. They should all go to Mr. Hughes. He has
the art of inconspicuousness, the result of many generations of fine
breeding. As you saw him in the plenary sessions clutching the lapels of
his coat with both hands and modestly struggling for utterance after an
immense flow of words from our chief delegate, you could not help
feeling patriotic pride in the contrast.

Besides, Mr. Balfour was captivated. He became, for the nonce, perfectly
American. Mr. H. Wickham Steed said to me, hearing the chief British
delegate speak: "It is a new Balfour at this conference." Certainly as
you heard the voice, moved and moving, emotional perhaps for the first
time in his life, you realized that it was not Mr. Balfour, "proceeding
on his faded way" as the _London Nation_ expressed it, who was speaking.
It was Mr. Balfour as he might be at a great revival meeting, such as
Mr. Hughes in his youth must have often attended.

On the Four Power Pact the best comment ever made was Mr. Frank
Simonds's, "It was invented to save the British Empire from committing

[Illustration: ARTHUR BALFOUR]

The results of the Washington conference were substantial. They put off
war where none was threatening. Perhaps in the longer future they
will be seen to be no more than a prolongation of the intent of the
Versailles treaty, confirming the dichotomy of powers which that
instrument created. Germany, Russia, and China were treated as outsiders
in both conferences.

But the great _a_ + _b_ = _c_ of last winter left peace where there is
war still unwritten. The problem which "humanity" posed to Mr. Hughes is
as yet unattempted. It is as exigent as ever. Immensely plausible as he
is, events have a way of overtaking him. Remembering what happened on
election night in 1916, I think one cannot sum him up better than by
saying that he has the habit of always being elected in the early
returns. As in the case of the lightning calculator, after you have
recovered from your first surprise at his mental exhibition you are
inclined to ask, "But what is the good of it all?"

The two most important advisers to the President in the existing Cabinet
are Mr. Hughes and Mr. Hoover. The limitations of the Secretary of State
are the limitations of a legalistic mind. The limitations of Mr. Hoover
are the limitations of a scientific mind. Men, considered politically,
do not behave like mathematical factors nor like chemical elements.

Someone asked Mr. Hoover recently why he sent corn to Russia instead of
wheat. "Because," replied the Secretary of Commerce without a moment's
hesitation, "for one dollar I can buy so many calories"--carrying it
out to the third decimal place--"in corn, and only so many"--again to
the third decimal place--"in wheat. I get about twice as many in corn as
in wheat."

Mr. Hoover is at his best in feeding a famished population. He then has
men where he wants them--I say this without meaning to reflect upon Mr.
Hoover's humanitarian impulses; perhaps I should better say he then has
men where for the free operation of his scientific mind he requires to
have them. For in a famine men become mere chemical retorts. You pour
into them a certain number of calories. Oxidization produces a certain
energy. And the exact energy necessary to sustain life is calculable.

In a famine men cease to be individuals. They can not say, "I never ate
corn. I do not know how to cook corn. I do not like corn." They behave
in perfectly calculable ways. So many calories, oxidization; so much

Conceive a society in which results were always calculable: so many men,
so much fuel, so much consequent horsepower, and Mr. Hoover would make
for it an admirable benevolent dictator; for he is benevolent. If
Bolshevism at its most complete exemplification had been a success and
become the order of the world, Mr. Hoover might have made a great head
of a state; with labor conscripted and food conscripted, all you would
have to do would be to apply the food, counted in calories, to the
labor, and production in a readily estimable quantity would ensue. I am
not trying to suggest that this represents Mr. Hoover's ideal of
society; it surely does not. I am only saying that this is the kind of
society in which Mr. Hoover would develop his fullest utility.

Science inevitably reduces man to the calculable automaton, otherwise it
can deduce no laws about him;--such as, for example, the legal man, a
fiction that haunts Mr. Hughes's brain; the chemical retort man, of Mr.
Hoover's mind; the economic man, another convenient fiction; the
scientific socialism man, another pure fiction, derived from the
economic man and forming the basis for Bolshevism at its fullest

Now if Chemistry should somehow acquire eccentricity, so that two
elements combined in a retort would sometimes produce one result and
sometimes another totally different, the chemist would be no more unsure
in his mind than is Mr. Hoover, operating for the first time in a
society of free, self-governing men. Or perhaps it would be a better
analogy to say that if the chemist when he put an agent into a retort
could not be sure what other elements were already in it, and could not
tell whether the result would be an explosion or a pleasant and useful
recombination, he would be somewhat in the position of Mr. Hoover.

You will observe that I am trying to dissociate the real Hoover from the
myth Hoover, always a difficult process, which may require years for
its accomplishment. I do not pretend that this is the final
dissociation. All we know with certainty of the real Hoover is that when
he has society at the starvation line and can say "so many calories, so
much energy," he works with extraordinary sureness.

When he operates in a normal society he takes his chemical agent in hand
and consults Mr. Harding, Mr. Daugherty, or Mr. Weeks as to what agents
there are in the political retort, and whether the placing of his agent
in with them will produce an explosion or a profitable recombination.

So you see the practical utility of his mind is conditioned upon the
minds of Mr. Harding, Mr. Weeks, and Mr. Daugherty. It is a fertile
mind, which invents, however, only minor chemical reactions, neither he
nor Mr. Harding being sure enough about the dirty and incalculable
vessel of politics to know when an explosion may result, and neither of
them being bold enough to take chances.

Mr. Hughes, Mr. Hoover, and Mr. Daugherty are the only outstanding
figures in the Cabinet. The Attorney General lives in an unreal world of
his own, which at the moment of this writing threatens to come tumbling
down about his head.

The clue to Mr. Daugherty's world is found in a sentence of Thomas
Felder's letter apropos of the failure to collect the $25,000 fee for
securing the release of Charles W. Morse from prison, in which he tells
how he associated with himself Mr. Daugherty, "who stood as close to the
President as any other lawyer or citizen of the United States."
"Standing close," men may laugh at the gods, may "take the cash and let
the credit go." It is a world of little things without any tomorrow.
Long views and large views do not matter. Forces? Principles? Perhaps,
but the main thing is all men should "stand close." It is an immensely
human world, where men if they are not masters of their own destiny may
at least cheat fate for a little brief hour, if only they remain true to
each other no matter what befalls.

Mr. Harding, one side of him belongs to that world of Mr. Daugherty's,
while another side belongs to that larger political world where morals,
wrapped in vague sentimental words, hold sway. It is because he belongs
to that world that Mr. Daugherty is Attorney General. Mr. Daugherty
"stood close" to Mr. Harding all his life. "Standing close" creates an
obligation. Mr. Harding, as President, must in return "stand close" to
Mr. Daugherty.

He does so. To the caller who visited him when the Morse-Felder letters
were coming out daily, and who was apprehensive of the consequences, the
President said, "You don't know Harry Daugherty. He is as clean and
honorable a man as there is in this country." In such a world as this,
your friend can do no wrong. Goldstein, who received the $2,500 from
Lowden's campaign manager, belongs to it. Therefore, he can do no wrong.
Therefore, his name goes from the White House to the Senate for
confirmation as Collector of Internal Revenue at St. Louis.

To go back to the time before he became Attorney General, Daugherty
practiced law in Columbus, Ohio. His cases came to him, largely as the
Morse retainer did, because he "stood close" to somebody, to the
President, to Senators, to Governors of Ohio, or Legislatures of Ohio.
His was not a highly lucrative practice, for Mr. Daugherty is one of the
few relatively poor men in the present Cabinet. You may deduce from this
circumstance a conclusion as favorable as that which the President, who
knows him so well, does. I am concerned only in presenting the facts. At
least Mr. Daugherty did not grow rich out of "standing close."

Nor did he accumulate a reputation. When men "stand close" those who are
outside the circle invariably regard them with a certain suspicion. Your
professional politician, for that is what Daugherty was, always is an
object of doubt. And for this reason he always seeks what is technically
known as a "vindication." Conscious of his own rectitude, as he measures
it, he may come out of office cleared in the world's eyes, and with a
fine title, to boot, ready for life upon a new level. And this
"vindication" sometimes does take place.

I have no doubt that Mr. Daugherty entered office with the most
excellent intentions. He had everything to gain personally from "making
a record" in the Attorney Generalship, a title and a higher standing at
the bar. Moreover, he was the loyal friend of the President and desired
the success of the administration.

But it is not so easy. You cannot one moment by "standing close" laugh
at the gods and the next range yourself easily and commodiously on the
side of the gods. The gods may be unkind even to those who mean to be
with them from the outset, establishing their feet firmly upon logic or
upon calories; how much more so may they be with those who would
suddenly change sides?

At least it is a matter that admits of no compromise. What is he going
to do in office with those who "stood close" to him as he "stood close"
to President Taft? All the "close standers" turn up in Washington. For
example, Mr. Felder, who "stood close" in the Morse case and who perhaps
for that reason appears as counsel in the Bosch-Magneto case, where the
prosecution moves slowly, and who moreover permits himself some
indiscretions. There is a whole army of "close standers." There are the
prosecutions that move slowly. Neither circumstance is necessarily
significant. There are always the "close standers." Prosecutions always
move slowly. But the two circumstances together!

I present all this merely to show what kind of adviser the Attorney
General is, his limited conception of life on this little world, and
life's, perhaps temporary, revenge upon him. No one at this writing can
pass judgment, so I give, along with the facts and the appearances, the
best testimonial that a man can have, that quoted above from the

In physique the Attorney General is burly, thick-necked, his eyes are
unsteady, his face alternately jovial and minatory,--I should say he
bluffed effectively,--rough in personality, a physical law requiring
that bodies easily cemented together, and thus "standing close," should
not have too smooth an exterior. His view of the world being highly
personal, his instinctive idea of office is that it, too, is personal,
something to be used, always within the law, to aid friends and punish
enemies. He wrote once to a newspaper, which was opposing his
appointment, in substance that he would be Attorney General in spite of
it and that he had a long memory.

Secretary of War Weeks is the only other general adviser of Mr. Harding
in the Cabinet. He is politically minded. Like Mr. Harding he is half of
the persuasion of Mr. Daugherty about organization, and half of the
other persuasion about the sway of moral forces. All in all he is
nearer akin mentally to the President than any other member of the
Cabinet, but with more industry and more capacity for details than his
chief. He is of the clean desk tradition; Mr. Harding is not.


Half politician and half business man, he interprets business to the
politician, and politics to business. He is a middle grounder. He quit
banking satisfied with a moderate fortune, saying, "The easiest thing I
ever did was to make money."

His bland voice and mild manner indicate the same moderation in
everything that he showed in making money; his narrowing eyes, the
caution which led him to quit banking when he went into politics.

Politics intrigues him, but he has not a first-class mind for it, as his
experiences in Massachusetts proved.

Frank to the utmost limits his caution will permit, people like him, but
not passionately. Men respect his ability, but they do not feel strongly
about it. He never becomes the center of controversy, as Daugherty is,
as Hoover has been, and as Hughes may at any time be. I have never seen
him angry, I have seen him enthusiastic. A Laodicean in short.

Secretary Fall hoped to be one of the chief advisers, but has been
disappointed. Mr. Harding had said of him, "His is the best mind in the
Senate," but he has found other minds more to his liking in the Cabinet.

With a long drooping mustache, he looks like a stage sheriff of the Far
West in the movies. His voice is always loud and angry. He has the
frontiers-man's impatience. From his kind lynch law springs.

He wanted to lynch Mexico. When he entered the Cabinet he said to his
Senate friends, "If they don't follow me on Mexico I shall resign." He
has been a negative rather than a positive force there regarding Mexico,
deviating Mr. Hughes into the ineffective position he occupies.

He has the frontiers-man's impatience of conservation. Probably he is
right. His biggest contribution to his country's welfare will be oil
land leases, like that of Teapot Dome.

The Secretary of Agriculture, Mr. Wallace, is an excellent technical
adviser, as unobtrusive as experts usually are.

The Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Denby, with his flabby jowls and large
shapeless mouth, has a big heart, and more enthusiasm than he has
self-command, judgment, or intelligence. He committed political suicide
cheerfully, when the Cannon machine in the House fell into disfavor. He
would do anything for a friend, not as Mr. Daugherty would because it
pays, but because he is a friend. A cause commands an equal loyalty from
him. Just because his head is not as big as his heart he is a minor

Mr. Davis, Secretary of Labor, is a professional glad hand man,
appointed because the administration meant to extend nothing to Labor
but a glad hand. When a crisis presents itself in industrial relations,
Mr. Hoover, who spreads himself over several departments, attends to it.
At the conference on unemployment, which was Mr. Hoover's, the best and
only example of the unemployed present was the Secretary of Labor.



We have a form of government suited to effect the will of a simple
primitive people, a people with one clear aim. When we are all of one
mind the government works. The executive represents the general
intention, Congress represents the same intention. The party in power
owes its position to the thoroughness with which it expresses the common
purpose. Or, if you go back further, the structure of business serves
the same social aim.

Now, under such circumstances, it makes little difference where
authority resides, whether there is government by business, or
government by parties, or executive domination, or whether Congress is
the ruling branch. The result is the same, the single purpose of the
community finds its just expression.

And so it was in the blessed nineties to which Mr. Harding would have us
return. The people were united upon one end, the rapid appropriation of
the virgin wealth of this continent and its distribution among the
public, and they had no doubt this was being admirably accomplished by
the existing business structure. Parties and governments were
subsidiary. The system worked.

In a pioneer society waste is unimportant; it may even be economy.
Forests are cut and all but the choicest wood thrown away. They are not
replanted. While they are so plentiful it would be a waste of time and
effort to use the poor timber or to replace the felled trees.

In a similar society faulty distribution, which is ordinarily a social
waste, is unimportant. There is plenty for all. And it may even be a
waste of time and effort, checking accomplishment, to seek better
adjustments. The object of society is the rapid exploitation of the
resources nature has made available. Everyone gains in the process.
Justice is a detail, as much a detail as is the inferior timber left to

We no longer have the unity of aim of a pioneer society, yet we have not
readjusted our actual government in conformity with the altered social
consciousness. Instead we are trying to readjust ourselves to a practice
that is outworn. Having ceased to be pioneers, becoming various and
healthily divided, instead of making our system express the new variety
in our life, and still function, we are trying to force ourselves by
heavy penalties and awful bugaboos back into that unity under which our
system does work.

And when I say that we have a form of government suited only to a
pioneer society, though we have ceased to be a pioneer society, let no
one think that I would lay a profane hand upon that venerated
instrument, the Constitution of the United States. I am thinking only of
the Constitution's boasted elasticity. A new stretching is required, to
fit a larger and more diversified society than that to which we have
hitherto applied it.

For a simple, primitive people, for a pioneer society with but one task
to accomplish,--the appropriation and distribution of the undeveloped
resources of a continent,--details of distribution being unimportant
where natural wealth was so vast, government by business or government
by parties as the agents of business served admirably. The essential
unity which is not to be found in our government of divided powers
existed in the single engrossing aim of the public.

For a temporary end, like the common defense, against an external enemy
or against an imagined internal enemy, concentration upon the Executive
also serves. The unity of purpose which the nation has is imported into
the government through elevating the President into a dominant position.
In the one case the government is made to work by putting all branches
of it under control of one authority outside itself; in the other, by
upsetting the nice balance which the Fathers of the Constitution set up
and, under the fiction of party authority, resorting to one man

But what happens when there ceases to be a single aim, when the fruits
of the earth are no longer sufficient to go around generously so that no
one need question his share, when a conflict of interests arises, when
classes begin to emerge, when in short we have the situation which
exists in America today?

Let us examine for a moment the Executive as a source of unity in the
government of such a divergent society. To make him executive minorities
must agree upon him. He must, to use Mr. Harding as an illustration, be
satisfactory to the farmers with one point of view and to Wall Street
with another, he must be acceptable to the Irish Americans and to the
German Americans and to several other varieties of Americans, he must
take the fence between those who believe in a League of Nations and
those who hate a League of Nations, he must please capital and at the
same time not alienate labor.

Mr. Harding gave a glimpse of his difficulties when he said during the
campaign, "I could make better speeches than these, but I have to be so
careful." The greatest common divisor of all the minorities that go to
making a winning national combination must be neutral, he must be
colorless, he must not know that his soul is his own. The greatest
common divisor of all the elements in the nation's political
consciousness today is inevitably a Mr. Harding. We shall probably have
a whole series of Mr. Hardings in the White House.

And when this greatest common divisor of all the classes and all the
interests, this neutral, colorless person to whom no one can find any
objection, enters the White House does he represent Labor? So little
that he will not have a labor man in his Cabinet. Does he represent
Capital? By instinct, by party training, by preference, yes, but capital
is so divided that it is hard to represent, and the President, like the
candidate, "has to be so careful." Does he represent the farmers? He
says so, but the farmers choose to be represented elsewhere, on the
hill, where they can find agents whose allegiance is not so divided.

And carefulness does not end upon election. Once a candidate always a
candidate. The entire first term of a president is his second candidacy.
His second term, if he wins one, is the candidacy of his successor, in
whose election he is vitally interested; for the continuance of his
party in power is the measure of public approval of himself. A president
who is the greatest common divisor of groups and interests "must always
be so careful" that he can never be a Roosevelt or a Wilson.

Recapitulating the experiences of other peoples with political
institutions, we have quickly, since our discovery of one man rule, run
upon the period of little kings. The Carolingians have followed close
upon the heels of the great Carl. The institution which in the first
decade of the twentieth century was a wonderful example of our capacity
to adopt the rigors of a written constitution to our ends, of the
practical genius of the American people, in the third decade of the
twentieth century is already dead.

The monarch with power, not the mere survival who satisfies the instinct
for the picturesque, for the play of the emotions in politics, is suited
to an undifferentiated people pursuing a single simple end; one end, one
man, many ends, many men is the rule. The greatest common divisor of
such masses of men as inhabit this continent, so variously sprung, so
variously seeking their place in the sun, is something that has to be so
careful as to become a nullity.

There is no reason why our presidents should not become like all single
heads of modern civilized peoples, largely ornamental, largely links
with the past, symbols to stir our inherited feelings as we watch their
gracious progress through the movies. Mr. Harding is headed that way and
if that Providence which watches over American destinies vouchsafes him
to us for eight years instead of only four, the Presidency under him
will make progress toward a place alongside monarchy under King George.

Already, in the habit of blaming every failure and disappointment upon
Congress, we see signs of the growth of the happy belief that the King
can do no wrong. When the King does nothing he can do no wrong.

There is no reason why we should not repeat the experiences of peoples
who have gone further upon the road of social differentiation than we
have and develop like them parliamentary government. By this I do not
mean to echo the nonsense that has been written about having the Cabinet
officers sit in Congress.

What is more likely to come is a new shift in the balance, a new
manifestation of our genius for the practical, which no written
constitution can restrain, which will place the initiative in the
legislative branch, whereas I have said, under Mr. Harding it is already
passing, and which will make Congress rather than the President the
dominant factor in our political life.

This process is already taking place.

When President Harding asked the advice of the Senate whether he should
revive an old treaty with Germany suspended by the war, pointing proudly
to the tenderness he was showing the partner of his political joys, he
conceded an authority in the legislative branch which neither the
Constitution nor our traditions had placed there. He took a step toward
recognizing the prospective dominance of Congress. It was one of many.

It is a long distance, as political institutions are measured, from
President Wilson's telling the Senate that it must bow to his will even
in dotting the i's and crossing the t's of the Versailles Treaty, to
Mr. Harding's asking the Senate what was its will regarding the old
German treaty. Foreign relations are precisely the field where the
executive power seems by the Constitution to have been most clearly
established, yet it is just here that the legislative branch has made
its most remarkable advance toward a dominating position; perhaps
because this topic gained a temporary importance from the war and it was
naturally in the most significant area that the conflict between the two
branches of the government had to break out.

When President Harding introduced the treaties and pacts resulting from
the Washington Conference into the Senate, he said that he had been a
Senator and knew the Senate views, and that all the agreements he was
offering for ratification had been negotiated with scrupulous regard to
the Senate's will. And he pleaded with the Senate not to disavow the
Executive and impair its standing in the conduct of foreign relations.

No more complete avowal could be made of the dominant position which the
Senate has come to occupy in the diplomatic affairs of the country.

In the field where he was supposed legally to have the initiative the
President became expressly the agent of the Senate. The Senate laid out
the limits of policy and the Executive scrupulously, so he said,
observed those limits.

This speech of Mr. Harding's, like his consulting the Senate in advance
upon the reviving of the German treaty, is one of the significant
evidences of the shift of power that is taking place, away from the
Executive toward the Legislative. It did not attract the attention it
deserved because our minds are still full of the past when the
Presidency was a great office under Wilson and Roosevelt. We read of Mr.
Harding's going to the hill to tell Congress what it must do, and we
ignore the fact that he always does so when Congress sends for him,
acting as their agent.

The King still makes his speech to Parliament, though the speech is
written by the ministers. They are his ministers, though Parliament
selects them. The power of the King is a convenient fiction. The power
of the President will always remain a convenient fiction, even if it
should come to have no more substance than that of the King.

In truth it has been the Senate not the Executive that has been
determining our foreign policy in its broader outlines for more than two
years. The Secretary of State works out the details. But the Senate says
"thus far shalt thou go and no farther." And when the Secretary of State
has gone farther, as in the case of the peace treaty with Germany, the
Senate has amended his work. So Senator Penrose did not exaggerate, when
he said apropos of Mr. Hughes's appointment, "It makes no difference who
is Secretary of State, the Senate will make the foreign policy." The
President has only recently declared that it has done so.

So gradual has been the extension of the Senate's prerogative that few
realize how far it has gone. So low had the Senate sunk in public
estimation during the war that it did not occur to President Wilson that
he might not safely ignore it in making peace. He appointed no Senators
to the delegation which went to Paris. He did not consult the Senate
during the negotiations nor did he ever take pains to keep the Senate
informed. He proceeded on the theory that he might sign treaties with
perfect confidence that the Senate would accept them unquestioningly.
And so impressed was the country at the time with the power of the
Presidency that Mr. Wilson's tacit assumption of dictatorial power over
Congress was generally taken as a matter of course.

All this was changed under Mr. Wilson's successor. One half of Mr.
Harding's delegation to the Washington Conference was made up of
Senators. At every step of the negotiation the Senate's susceptibilities
were borne in mind. No commitment was entered into which would exceed
the limits set by the Senate to the involvement of this country abroad.
Almost daily Mr. President consulted with Senators and explained to them
what the American Commission was doing. Practically the Executive became
the agent of the Senate in foreign relations and in the end he told the
Senate what a good and faithful servant he had been and how scrupulously
he had respected its will.

It was only superficially that Secretary Hughes was the outstanding
figure of the Conference. The really outstanding figure was the Senate.
Mr. Hughes was not free. Mr. Harding was not free. The controlling
factor was the Senate. The treaties had to be acceptable to the Senate,
whose views were known in advance. No theory of party authority, of
executive domination, would save them if they contravened the Senatorial
policy disclosed in the Versailles Treaty debate and insisted upon anew
to Mr. Hughes's grievous disappointment when the reservation was
attached to the separate peace with Germany. When it was realized that
Senate opposition to the Four Power Pact had been courted through the
inadvertent guaranty of the home islands of Japan, the agreement was
hastily modified to meet the Senate's views. President and Secretary of
State behaved at this juncture like a couple of clerks caught by their
employer in a capital error.

And even Mr. Hughes's prominence was half accidental. The Senate is
strong in position but weak in men. Mr. Hughes is vastly Mr. Lodge's
superior in mind, in character, and in personality. Suppose the
situation reversed, suppose the Senate rich in leadership, suppose it
were Mr. Aldrich instead of Mr. Lodge who sat with Mr. Hughes in the
Commission, then the Senate which had made the foreign policy in its
broad outlines would itself have filled in the details, and a Senator
instead of the Secretary of State would have been the chief figure of
the American delegation.

Where did Mr. Harding's plan of settling international affairs by
conferences originate? You will find it in a document which Senator Knox
brought out to Marion, Ohio, in January, 1921. Reports had come to
Washington that Mr. Harding's Association of Nations, which was being
discussed with the best minds was only Mr. Wilson's league re-cast. The
leaders of the Senate met and agreed on a policy. Mr. Knox took it to
the President elect. Instead of a formally organized association there
was to be nothing more than international conferences and the
appointment of international commissions as the occasion for them arose.
Mr. Harding's policy is the Senate's policy.

The Senate's victory has been complete. The United States did not ratify
the Versailles Treaty. It did not enter the League of Nations. It did
make a separate treaty of peace with Germany. It did not appoint a
member of the Reparations Commission--the Senate's reservation to Mr.
Hughes's treaty keeping that question in the control of Congress.

Senatorial control of foreign relations seems now to be firmly
established. No future president, after Mr. Wilson's experiences with
the Versailles Treaty and Mr. Harding's with the Four Power Pact, will
negotiate important foreign engagements without informing himself fully
of the Senate's will. And the principle has been established that the
Senate shall be directly represented on American delegations to world

I recall this history of the recent conflict between the Executive and
the Senate over foreign relations to show how completely in this
important field the theory of presidential dominance has broken down and
been replaced by the practice of senatorial dominance. No amendment to
the constitution has taken place. The President still acts "with the
advice and consent of the Senate." Only now he takes the advice first so
as to be sure of the consent afterward, instead of acting first and
obtaining the advice and consent afterward.

The Senate has been aided in this conflict with the Executive by the
constitutional requirement of a two-thirds majority for the ratification
of a treaty. If a majority would suffice, a President, by invoking the
claims of party, by organizing public opinion, by judiciously using
patronage might put his agreements with foreign nations through. But a
two-thirds vote is not to be obtained by these methods; the only
practicable means is to accept the Senate's views of foreign policy and
conform to it.

As soon as foreign relations became sufficiently important to fight over
the conflict was inevitable and the victory of the Senate certain.

The conflict between the two branches of the Government will not stop
with this victory of the Senate. It has always been present and probably
always will be. The importance of the domestic problems that the war
left will cause Congress to insist upon a free hand to make domestic
policies. In the past Congress busied itself about little except the
distribution of moneys for public buildings and river and harbor
improvement. The handling of these funds the legislative branch kept out
of executive control.

Now public buildings and improvements have become relatively
unimportant. But the deepest economic interests of constituents are
involved. Formerly taxes were small and lightly regarded. Today their
incidence is the subject of a sharp dispute between classes and

Furthermore the use of government credit for certain economic ends, such
as those favored by the farmers, will cause a clash between sections,
groups, industries, and strata of society. Policies of large importance
will have to be adopted about which there will be a vast difference of
opinion. The divergent interests cannot be represented in the White
House, for the Presidency embodies the compromise of all the interests.
They will have to find their voice in Congress. When they find their
voice the great policies will be made. And where the great policies will
be made there the power will be.



When Lazarus was raised from the dead it took him a long time to find
out that he was again alive. His legs were stiff from being so long
extended. His arms were cramped from being decently arranged across his
breast. The circulation starting in his members produced disagreeable
sensations which recalled his mortal illness and the pains of
dissolution. The last thing that this discomfort suggested was life.

Even thus it is with Congress, it has been so long dead that it is hard
for it to realize that it has once again come to life. It suffers from
various unpleasant sensations in its members, from blocs, from lack of
leadership, from indifference to party, from factionalism, from
individualism, from incapacity to do business. They are all vaguely
reminiscent of the pains of dissolution. On the dissolution theory they
are decent and explicable, for death is always decent and explicable.

As signs of life they are scandalous, and everybody body is scandalized
over them for fear that a vital Congress will be something new to reckon

If Congress does realize that it has waked from the dead, who will be
worse scandalized than the senile persons whom the newspapers
respectfully call its "leaders"? What more threatening spectacle for
second childhood is there than first childhood?

Suppose Congress were again a lusty and vigorous creature with the blood
of youth in its veins, how long would Henry Cabot Lodge, aged
seventy-two, remain leader of the Senate? Lodge, the irascible old man,
with worn nerves, who claps his hands for the Senate pages as if they
were not of the same flesh and blood with himself, and who would, if he
could follow his instincts, clap his hands in the same way to summon the
majority Senators, the recluse who is kept alive by old servants who
understand and anticipate every whim, to enjoy greedily the petty
distinctions that have come to him late because the Senate itself was
more than half dead?

And who would be worse scandalized than the ancient committee chairman,
some with one foot in the grave? At one time in the first year of Mr.
Harding's administration the important chairmanships in the Senate were
disposed thus: Finance, the most powerful committee, Senator Penrose, a
dying man; Foreign Relations, Senator Lodge, 72; Interstate Commerce,
Senator Cummins, 72, and broken with illness; Judiciary, Senator
Nelson, 79 and living back in the Civil War in which he served as a
private; Immigration, Senator Colt, 76.

Suppose Congress should come to life and represent the real interests of
the various sections, classes, and, let us say, kinds of property and
business in this country--how long would the Senate remain such a
pleasant place to die in?

When these old gentlemen made their successful fight upon President
Wilson they signed their own death warrants, and began putting an end to
the system that made their tenure possible. Only a Congress which had
long been a subject of public contempt could have fallen into and could
have remained in their hands. Granted that Congress is negligible, it
makes no difference who sits in it or how decrepit its leadership.

But shift power once more to the legislative, and the various
conflicting interests throughout the country will grasp for the offices
now in enfeebled hands. And by taking predominance in foreign relations
away from the Executive and transferring it to themselves, the elderly
and infirm "leaders," who have been tolerated out of half contempt, have
started the avalanche of authority in their direction. It will sweep
them off their unsteady feet.

Let us examine what they have done. When they opposed Mr. Wilson on the
Versailles Treaty they established the power of the Senate to mark out
broadly the foreign policy of the United States, a dangerous enough
beginning for persons who were merely tolerated because Congress was
nearly negligible and it was a matter of little difference to the public
who its managers were. But when they altered Mr. Harding's treaties they
also denied the authority of the Executive as the head of his party to
align them in support of his program.

Party authority vested in the Executive thus impaired, it was not long
before the representatives of agricultural states also denied it, and
began to take their orders from the Farm Bureau Federation instead of
from the White House. Then the House leaders in open defiance of the
"head of the party" prepared and reported a soldiers' bonus bill which
contravened the express purposes of the Executive regarding this
legislation. Here we have the organization joining with the farm bloc in
declaring the legislature to be its own master.

But on what do the octogenarian feet of Mr. Lodge and Mr. Cummins, and
Mr. Colt and Mr. Nelson, and the others, rest except upon party
authority? Not upon representing any real or vital principle in the
national life. Not upon any force of intelligence or personality.

They move in a region of fictions. They represent the Republican party,
when there is no Republican party, no union on principles, no stable
body of voters, no discipline, no clear social end to be served.

When votes for legislation must be had, Senator James Watson circulates
about among the faithless pleading in the name of party loyalty--as well
talk of fealty to Jupiter in the capitol of the Popes!

In extremities the President, as "head of his party," is brought on the
scene,--for all the world like the practice of a certain cult which long
after its founder was dead used to dress up a lay figure to resemble him
and drive it about the marketplace, to reassure the faithful and confirm
the influence of the priests. Mr. Harding is alive enough, but the "head
of his party" is dead and a mere fiction of priests like "Jim" Watson.

Power has passed or is passing from the Executive and has found no one
in Congress to receive it. The arrival of power causes as much
consternation on the hill as the outbreak of war does among the
incompetent swivel chair bureaucrats of an army in a nation that has
been long at peace.

Power is passing to Congress because Congress says who shall pay the
taxes and who may use the public credit. Where there was one interest a
generation ago, there are many interests today, each trying to place the
burden of taxation upon others and reaching for the credit itself.
Taxation and credit are the big stakes today and Congress has them in
its atrophied grasp.


The question what is the matter with Congress has received more answers
than any other question asked about American institutions. For almost
a generation the national legislature has been regarded as the one
great failure in self government. For years it has been the home of
small men concerned with petty things which it approached in a petty
spirit, incompetent, wasteful, and hypocritical, a trial to the
Executive, almost a plague to the country. It has shared with state
legislatures and municipal boards of aldermen the impatience of the
people. In spite of searchings of the public conscience it has gone from
bad to worse till it is at its lowest point today, in personnel, in
organization, in capacity to transact business.

What has brought Congress to this state has been the unimportance of its
work, "doing such little things," as Mr. Root said after his six years
in the Senate. Natural economy prevents the sending of a man on a boy's
errand even if the man would go.

The great power which legislatures have, that over the public purse, has
not been of enough importance to make Congress a great legislature.
Taxes were light and before the war fell so indirectly that the public
gave them little attention. The control of the budget virtually passed
out of the hands of Congress, for executive departments habitually
exceeded their appropriations and Congress always made up the
deficiencies. There was no tax upon incomes. Taxpayers were indifferent.
A few hundred millions more or less was of no account.

Dispensations to business in the shape of protective duties upon
imports, a form of taxation which once made Congress a dominant factor
in national life, had become steadily less important as American
industry grew strong enough to hold its own market against competition
and to compete itself in other markets. With the subsidence of the
tariff as an issue Congress lost its last power to impose taxes in which
the country was deeply interested. Where the control of the public purse
and taxes are unimportant, legislatures are weak, unless executive
authority is vested in a Cabinet formed from among their members.

With the enfeeblement of Congress through the growing unimportance of
the taxing power, its great function, came the tendency to magnify the
Executive. Power has to go somewhere, and it went down Pennsylvania
Avenue. And this movement coincided with the development of
centralization. Congress, which was full of the spirit of localism, was
not a perfect instrument of centralization. The Executive was.

To elevate the President it was necessary to depress Congress. It became
the fashion to speak sneeringly of the Legislative branch, to sympathize
with presidents who "had Congress on their hands," to write of "the
shame of the Senate," and when any issue existed between the two parts
of the government to throw the force of public opinion on the side of
the executive. The press printed endless criticism of the Senate and
the House. Theories of government were invented to reduce Congress to a
subordinate place.

Meanwhile Congress, having regard for the character of its membership,
was agreed that incompetence should suffer no disabilities. All that was
required for political preferment within it was political longevity.

The seniority rule, by which committee chairmanships went not to ability
but to long service, favored mediocrity and second childhood. Even more,
incompetence banded together jealously to protect itself against
competence and shunted it into minor assignments. While the public was
regarding Congress with contempt Congress was well satisfied to make
itself contemptible.

Suppose we had developed a capacity for breeding statesmen in this
country, which we have not, would any man of first-class talents seek a
public career in such an institution as I have described? In the first
place, the people were visiting Congress with indifference, or worse
than indifference, and ambition will not serve under indifference. In
the next place that great power which makes legislatures dominant, the
power to tax and to distribute the fruits of taxation, had become
temporarily unimportant; and again, Congress itself was organized for
self-protection against brains and character.

Senator Root quit the Senate in disgust. Senator Kenyon has just
followed his example in even deeper disgust. A Tammany Congressman after
one term said, "They tie horses to Congressmen in Washington."

Congress is upon the whole a faithful reflection of the American
political consciousness. Democracy is a relatively new thing. It has not
taken hold of the minds and hearts of men. Shadowy and half-unconscious
faiths dispute its place. De Gourmont writing of the persistence of
Paganism in Catholicism, says that no religion ever dies but lives on in
its successor. So no government ever dies but lives on in its successor.
Why take the trouble to govern yourselves when your vital interests are
so well directed by the higher governments, of Progress, of economic
Forces, of heroes and captains of industry who ruled by a sort of divine
right? The less you try to muddle through by means of poor human
instruments in this well-ordered world the better.

For the limited tasks of self-government, why should special talents be
required? We are still near enough the pioneer age to adhere to pioneer
conceptions. Roosevelt, unfortunately, is the national ideal.

We look hopefully for great amateurs like him among insurance agents,
building contractors, lawyers, country editors, bankers, retiring, with
modest fortunes made, into public life. We put the jack of all trades
everywhere. Into the Presidency--and I don't know why we should not in
that office, for it is a waste of material and a misdirection of effort
in self-government to throw away a first-class public man on a four-year
job. Into the Senate and the House, into the Cabinet, where a lawyer
without previous experience of international affairs conducts our
foreign relations in the most difficult period of the world's history,
matching the power of his country against the wits of other countries'
practiced representatives, and thus obtaining a certain forbearance of
their extreme skill.

Into the diplomatic posts, where an editor, Colonel Harvey, noted only
for his audacity, holds the most important ambassadorship. Those who
have seen the Colonel at meetings of the Supreme Council tell the
amazing story that he was a silent and uneasy figure in the conferences
of Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Briand, perhaps because he is only an
observer, perhaps also because he was in the company of practiced
statesmen and diplomats.

However, our system has its compensations. The picture of the robustious
Colonel uneasy in Zion is one of them.

In another great diplomatic post is Mr. Richard Washburn Child, a
quantity producer of fiction, or sort of literary Henry Ford. In
another, Paris, the second most important in the world, Mr. Myron
Herrick, a retired business man. Senator Foraker said of him, at a
critical moment of his public career, "_De mortuis nil_." "Don't you
wish to finish that quotation, 'nisi bonum,'" asked the reporter who was
seeking a statement. "No," said the Senator sharply; "De mortuis nil."
Of the ambassador to France nil, except that he comes from Ohio.

But when we, given all these causes for the weakness of Congress, the
frail hold which the idea of self-government has upon the popular mind,
the unimportance of the taxing power, the tendency to concentrate on the
executive at the expense of the legislative, the obstacles to ability
which mediocrity has erected in Congress, we have not explained the
present extraordinary confusion and demoralization in the legislative
branch. Most of these causes have been operating for some time, yet
Congress has been able to function. Only since Mr. Harding became
President has the breakdown of Congress been marked.

If you ask observers in Washington why the last Congress failed more
completely than any of its predecessors, with one voice they reply:
"Lack of leadership." Everybody cackles of leadership as if lack of
leadership were a cause and not a symptom. What is it that makes a
leader and followers unless it is a common purpose?


The weakness of Mr. Harding, Mr. Lodge, Speaker Gillett, Mr. Mondell
lies partly in themselves, but it is made more apparent by the
difficulties that confront them. It traces back to the uncertainties
in the national mind. Who could lead representatives of taxpayers
staggering under the costs of the war and representatives of soldiers
striving to lay an added burden on the taxpayers? Who could lead
representatives of farmers who demand that a large share of the credit
available in this country be mobilized by the government for the
subvention of agriculture and representatives of commerce and
manufacture who wish to keep the government from competing with them for
the stock of credit? Or labor which insists that the way to improve
business is by stimulating demand at home through liberal wages,
increasing consumption; and the other classes which insist that the way
to restore business is by making increased consumption possible to them
through lower prices only to be accomplished through lower wages? The
conflict runs across party lines. The old rallying cries fall on deaf

The Republican party was based on the common belief that government
favors delivered at the top percolated down, by a kind of gravity that
operated with rough justice, to all levels of society, like water from a
reservoir on a hill reaching all the homes of a city. When you called
for loyalty to that you called for loyalty to everybody's stomach,
expressed in the half-forgotten phrase: "The full dinner pail."

Now, the various elements of society are doubtful of what may reach them
by the force of gravity from the top. Each insists that government
favor shall enter at its level and be diffused from that center. Would
you make the nation happy and rich, give the soldiers a
five-billion-dollar bonus and start them buying? Give the farmers a
several-billion-dollar guarantee of their staples and start prosperity
on the farm. Give labor high wages and start prosperity there by
stimulating consumption. Give the consumer lower prices by cutting wages
and start prosperity there. Shift the burden of taxation somewhat from
wealth and start prosperity once more in the good old way by favors at
the top.

One might compare the breakup that has occurred in this country to the
breakup that took place in Russia after the first revolution, the
peaceful and ineffective revolution of 1905. All parties in Russia
united against absolutism. A measure of representative government being
established and the main object of the revolution being achieved, all
parties fell to quarrelling among themselves as to which should profit
most by the new institutions.

Under Mr. Roosevelt and his successors a mild revolution was
accomplished. People turned against economic absolutism. They had begun
to question the unregulated descent of favors from the top. They doubted
the force of gravity that used to fill dinner pails. They demanded some
representation in the process of filling dinner pails. They set up a
government at Washington to control credit and transportation.

And now they have fallen apart over who shall pay the taxes, who shall
have use of the credit, who shall profit by lowered freight rates,
rebates in principle, special favors in transportation, under a new

When men today deplore the lack of leadership they are comparing Mr.
Harding with Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Wilson, and Mr. Lodge and Mr. Mondell
with Senator Hanna and Senator Aldrich. Today's chiefs of state are of
smaller stature. Mr. Harding has been a drifter all his life; he has not
the native force of Mr. Roosevelt, the sheer vitality which gloried in
overcoming obstacles. He has not the will of Mr. Wilson. The petulant
Lodge is not the same order of being as the brutal, thick-necked Hanna,
or the more finished but still robust Aldrich.

But beyond this personal superiority which the leaders of the past had,
they enjoyed the advantage of standing upon sure ground. Mr. Hanna
belonged to that fortunate generation which never doubted, whether it
was in religion or morals or politics. He may not have put it so to
himself, but behind everything that he did lay the tacit assumption that
the business system was divinely ordained. The hand of Providence was
conspicuous everywhere in America's rise, but nowhere more than in the
rapid turning, unprecedented in the world's history, of minerals and
forests into a civilization.

In times of daily miracles it is easy to believe. Mr. Hanna believed,
the public believed, Congress believed. Mr. Hanna spoke for this
divinely ordained system which was developing an undeveloped continent
as one had never been in the memory of man, making us all richer, with a
certain rough justice, according to our deserts.

He himself was a pioneer. He himself had created wealth. He knew the
creators of wealth. He delivered the commandments handed down to him on
the mountain. With God so much on his side a much lesser man than Hanna
would have been a great leader. God isn't on the side of Mr. Lodge. That
is the difference.

Mr. Aldrich represented a less pure faith. What had been a primitive
religion had become an established church. He had behind him a power of
organization in business and Congress that Hanna had not. The public may
have been less faithful; still the religion he represented was the
official religion.

Like Hanna, he was rich and a creator of wealth; in addition he was
connected by marriage with the richest family in the United States. He
was the spokesman of business, and even if faith was decaying no one
seriously questioned the sacred character of business as the instrument
of Providence for making America great, rich, and free.

The chief aim was the creation of wealth. No one could doubt that the
business organization was accomplishing it with unparalleled success.
Perhaps the heads of the business organization kept a little too much of
the newly created wealth to themselves, but at least everyone shared in
it and it was wise to let well enough alone. Where there is such
substantial unity as existed at that time, no great personal qualities
are required for leadership.

And Mr. Aldrich was not endowed with great personal qualities. He has
been gone from Washington only a dozen years, and yet no tradition of
him survives except that he managed the Senate machine efficiently. In
type he was the business executive. He represented more fully than
anyone else in the Senate the one great interest of the country. He
stood for a reality, and it gave him tremendous power.

His mind was one of ordinary range. He traded in tariff schedules and
erected majorities upon the dispensing of favors. He bestowed public
buildings and river improvements in return for votes. Leaders have not
now these things to give or have them in insufficient quantities and on
too unimportant a scale.

No great piece of constructive legislation serves to recall him.
Primarily a man of business, he nevertheless attached his name to the
grotesque Aldrich-Vreeland currency act. The work of the monetary
commission of which he was the head, and which led to the present
Federal Reserve Law, was the work of college professors and economists.

Naturally a better leader than Mr. Lodge because he met men more easily
upon a common ground and had more vitality than the Massachusetts
Senator has, he was no better leader than any one of half a dozen
present Senators would be if the aim of business were accepted today by
the country as the great social aim, as it was in his day, and if any
one of the six now spoke for business in the Senate as in his time he

Give Mr. Brandegee or Mr. Lenroot or Mr. Wadsworth a people accepting
that distribution which worked out from extending to the heads of the
business organization every possible favor and immunity, as the
distribution best serving the interests of all, and add unto him plenty
of public buildings and river improvements, and he could lead as well as
Mr. Aldrich.



There is a saying that in American families there is only three or four
generations from riches to shirt sleeves. Mr. Hanna is the first
generation, Mr. Aldrich is the second generation. In Mr. Penrose and Mr.
Lodge you reach what is a common phase of American family history, the
eccentric generation. And in Senator Jim Watson and Senator Charles
Curtis, who are just coming on the scene as "leaders," you reach once
more political shirt sleeves.

The American family dissipating its patrimony, produces invariably the
son who is half contemptuous of the old house that founded his fortunes,
who is half highbrow, who perhaps writes books as well as keeping them,
or it may be bolts to the other side altogether.

So the Hanna-Aldrich stock produced Henry Cabot Lodge, a sort of
political James Hazen Hyde, who stayed at home and satisfied his longing
for abroad by serving on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But
perhaps it would be fairer to Mr. Lodge to say of him what a witty
friend of mine did, "Lodge is what Henry James would have been if Henry
James had remained in America and gone into politics." Or he is what
Henry Adams might have been if Henry Adams had been less honest in his
contempt for democracy.

The last leaf of that New England tree whose fruit was an expatriate
literature and expatriate lives, the limit of Mr. Lodge's expatriation
was an interest in foreign affairs when redder-blooded Americans were
happily ignorant of them. If business had been choosing spokesmen at
Washington it would no more have picked out Mr. Lodge than it would have
picked out James Hazen Hyde or Henry James. Mr. Lodge's leadership was a
sign of decay.

But some will say business at this time had Senator Penrose as its
spokesman. I doubt it. Senator Penrose was that other son of the family
in whose blood runs all the ancestral energies without the ancestral

By the time he achieved prominence business in politics was no longer
quite respectable. People said, creating the Penrose legend, "Why,
Penrose would stop at nothing. He'd even represent the selfish interests
here in Washington." Therefore it was considered that he must represent
them. And he did to an extent, speaking for Henry C. Frick and some
others of Pennsylvania, but he was in no adequate sense the successor
of Aldrich and Hanna.

Had business chosen a spokesman at Washington, he must have been
respectable. Hanna was that most respectable of Americans, the highly
successful man who has played for and won a great fortune. Aldrich was
that equally respectable American, the conservative manager of the
established corporation.

There is a story that when Penrose became boss of Pennsylvania the
Republican politicians of the State were anxious about the effect his
personal reputation would have upon the voters. Finally they went to
him, as the elders sometimes go to the young parson, and said, "The
organization thinks the people would like it better if you were
married," "All right, boys, if you think so," Penrose replied; "let the
organization pick the gal." The organization recoiled from this
cynicism. But business is harder. Business, if it had really identified
itself with Penrose, would have "picked the gal."

No better evidence of the tenuity of his connection with business is
required than his outbreak in 1920, "I won't have the international
bankers write the platform and nominate the candidate at Chicago."

Mr. Penrose enjoyed a "_succés de scandale_." He was what the hypocrites
in Washington secretly desired to be but lacked the courage to be. He
lived up to the aristocratic tradition, at its worst; which everyone
admires, especially at its worst. He did on a grand scale what anyone
else would have been damned for doing on a lesser scale and was loved
for being so splendidly shocking.

He was the village sport, with the best blood of the village in his
veins, and was the village delight, the man about whom all the best
stories were whispered. He had the clear mind which comes from scorn of
pretense. But all this is not greatness, nor is it leadership. The
Republicans in the Senate before being led by Mr. Penrose would have
insisted on "picking the gal." They like to see framed marriage
certificates in the party household.

The patrimony is gone and we reach shirt sleeves in Senator Charles
Curtis and Senator James Watson, one of whom will succeed Mr. Lodge when
he dies, retires, or is retired, and the other of whom will succeed Mr.
Cummins as president pro tem when he similarly disposes of himself or is
disposed of.

Neither of them has the stature or solidity of Hanna or Aldrich, and
they will not have supporting them unity in party or in national
sentiment. Neither of them has the romantic quality of Mr. Penrose or
Mr. Lodge. Neither of them will ever be a leader in any real sense of
the word. Neither of them will have anything to lead.

As frequently happens when you reach shirt sleeves by the downward
route, you find the accumulative instinct reasserting itself on a petty
scale. Look at the rather shabby clothes that Senator Curtis wears, in
spite of his considerable wealth, and you are sure that you have to do
with a hoarder. And that is what he is; a hoarder of political minutiæ.

Current report is that he is the best poker player in either house of
Congress. You can imagine him sitting across the table watching the
faces of his antagonists with a cold eye, which no tremor of a muscle,
no faint coming or going of color, no betraying weakness escapes.

That is his forte in politics, knowing all the little things about men
which reveal their purposes or operate in unexpected ways as hidden

He has a perfect card catalogue of nearly all the voters of Kansas. It
is kept up to date. It reports not merely names and addresses but
personal details, the voter's point of view, what interests him, what
influences may be brought to bear on him. Curtis is a hoarder, with an
amazing capacity for heaping up that sort of information.

His mind is a card catalogue of the Senate, vastly more detailed than
the card catalogue of Kansas. He watches the Senate as he watches the
faces of his antagonist in a poker game. He knows the little
unconsidered trifles which make men vote this way and that. And he is so
objective about it all that he rarely deceives himself. If into this
concern with the small motives which move men there crept a certain
contempt of humanity he might mislead himself; he might be hateful, too;
but his objectivity saves him; he is as objective as a card catalogue
and no more hateful.

But you see how far short all this falls from leadership, or
statesmanship, or greatness of any description. Usefulness is there
certainly; card catalogues are above all useful, especially when there
is variety and diversity to deal with, as there is coming to be in a
Senate ruled by blocs and frequented by undisciplined individualism.

If Curtis kept a journal he would hand down to posterity a most perfect
picture of men and motives in Washington,--if, again, posterity should
be interested in the fleeting and inconsiderable figures who fill the
national capital "in this wicked and adulterous generation seeking for a
sign"--I am quoting the Bible trained Secretary of State in one of his
petulant moments.

If he had the malice of Saint Simon, the journal would be diverting, but
he is without malice. He has no cynical conception of men's weakness and
smallness as something to play upon. He accepts Senators as they are,
sympathetically. What makes them vote this way and that is the major
consideration of politics. His records of the Kansas electorate are more
important to him than principles, policies, or morals. The efficient
election district Captain of the Senate, that is Curtis.

A more likely successor to Lodge is "Jim" Watson of Indiana. I attended
a theatrical performance in Washington recently. Nearby sat the Indiana
Senator. His neighbor, whom I did not recognize, doubtless some
politician from Indiana, sat with his arm about Watson's neck, before
the curtain rose, pouring confidences into Watson's ear.

Watson is given to public embraces. His arm falls naturally about an
interlocutor's shoulders or, and this is important as showing that Jim
is not merely patronizing, descending affectionately from the great
heights of the Senatorship, Jim himself, as at the theatre, is the
object of the embrace. But perhaps that is finer condescension.

If the characteristic gesture of Lodge is the imperious clapping of his
hands for the Senate pages and the revealing trait of Curtis is
extraordinary intuition about the cards in other hands around the
lamp-lit table, the soul of Watson is in the embrace. His voice is a
caress. He kisses things through. He never errs in personal relations,
if you like to be embraced--and most men do, by greatness.

In one of his less successful moments he represented, at Washington the
National Manufacturers' Association, at that time a rather shady
organization of lesser business men. If he had not been the orator that
he is he would have been with that circumambulatory arm of his, an
inevitable lobbyist.

For Watson is an orator, of the old school, the Harding school. They
employ the same loose style of speech, flabby as unused muscles, words
that come into your head because you have often heard them on the stump
and in the Senate, and read them in country editorials, words that have
long lost their precise meaning but evoke the old pictures in the minds
of an emotional and unthinking electorate. At this art of emitting a
long rumble of speech which is not addressed to the mind Watson has no

It is an American art and puzzling to foreigners. Vice-Admiral Kato, not
the head of the Japanese delegation but the second Kato, had enough
English to remark it. "Your President," he said, "is a charming man, but
why does he put such funny things in his speeches?"

In the mere mastery of this kind of English Mr. Harding may equal
Watson, but as an orator the Indianian has what the President never had;
the unctuous quality in him which makes him embrace readily lets him
pour out his soul freely. He has thunders in his voice, he tosses his
head with its fuzzy hair magnificently, he has gusto. He has
imagination. He is a big, lovable if not wholly admirable, boy playing
at oratory, playing at statesmanship, playing above all at politics.
Nothing is very real to him, not even money; he put all he had into an
irrigation project and left it there. Just now he irrigates with the
tears in his voice the arid places in the Republican party where
loyalty should grow.


I present these characterizations of Senate leaders, past, present, and
future, to indicate through them what the Senate itself is, and to
suggest what conditions have given quite ordinary men power and how
feeble leadership has become, with the country no longer agreed how best
to promote the general good, and with Congress as it has been in recent
years a relatively unimportant factor in the national government.

Senator Platt used to say of an habitual candidate for nomination to the
governorship of New York, Timothy L. Woodruff, "Well, it may taper down
to Tim." We have "tapered down to Tim,"--or rather to "Jim"--in the
Senate because as a people we have been indifferent and unsure, and
because there has been little use for anything but "Tims" or "Jims" in
Washington. Nature seems to abhor a waste in government.

Those who ascribe all the troubles in Congress to lack of leadership,
and go no further, blame the poverty of our legislative life upon the
popular election of Senators and upon the choice of candidates at direct
primaries. But the decay began before the system changed. We resorted to
new methods of nomination and election because the old methods were
giving us Lorimers and Addickses. Probably we gained nothing, but we
lost little.

Big business, so long as the taxing power, through the imposition of
the tariff, was important to it, and so long as it was accepted as the
one vital interest of the country, saw to it that it was effectively
represented in Congress. It was then somebody's job to see that at least
some solid men went to Washington. It has of late been nobody's job.
There has been no real competition for seats in the national

The Senate has tempted small business men who can not arise to the level
of national attention through their control of industry, and small
lawyers similarly restricted in their efforts for publicity. It is an
easily attained national stage.

It appeals to that snobbish instinct--of wives sometimes--which seeks
social preferment not to be obtained in small home towns, or denied
where family histories are too well known.

It allures the politician, bringing opportunity to play the favorite
game of dispensing patronage and delivering votes, with the added pomp
of a title.

It is the escape of the aristocrat, whose traditions leave him the
choice between idleness and what is called "public service."

It is the escape of the successful man who has found his success empty
and tries to satisfy the unsatisfied cravings of his nature. Such men
"retire" into it, as it was reported to President Harding's indignation
that one of the Chicago banker candidates for the Secretaryship of the
Treasury wished to retire into the Cabinet. Some enter it for one of
these motives, more from a combination of them, but, generally, it is
the promised land of the bored, some of whom find it only a mirage.

A typical Senator is Mr. Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, one of the smaller
business men being drawn into public life. Son of a country minister, he
started as an insurance agent. Nature equipped him with unusual energy
and aggressiveness and those two qualities brought success in writing
insurance. Nothing in his early training inhibited his robust
temperament. Ruddy and vigorous, he is not sicklied o'er with any pale
cast whatever. Plainly he has a zest for life, that easily accessible
American life where good mixers abound.

Not a highbrow, he yet recognizes that literature has its place, on all
four walls of a large room, and bought in sets.

Having the American horror of loneliness, whether social or moral, you
find him always going along with his party. When his set divides he
balances between the two factions as long as possible and elects to go
with the more numerous. Simple, likable, honest, safe so long as
majorities are safe, and that is the theory we are working on, he is the
average man in everything but his aggressiveness and energy.

No, he also rises above the average in possessing such a name as
Frelinghuysen. You enter his library and you see a banner of the
campaign of Clay and Frelinghuysen. He will recite to you campaign
songs of those unsuccessful candidates for President and Vice-President.
Another Frelinghuysen was a Cabinet member. Another Frelinghuysen, of
the wealthier branch of the family, has an assured social position.

None of these famous Frelinghuysens is an ancestor. Each of them is a
challenge. If he could have found an ancestor! If an insurance company
were a high place from which to survey the world at one's feet! But, no!
Ancestors, power, publicity, social prestige, all lie beyond the reach
of small business success.

In the Senate men, important men, come to you for favors; it is so much
better than going to them to write policies. From the Senatorship you
condescend; there really is a world to which a Senator can condescend.
Washington is a social melting pot. No one asks whether you are one of
the Blanks. You are Senator Blank and that is enough. And if you are so
fortunate, by your very averageness, to attach yourself to the average
man whose fortune makes him President, and you become one of the Harding
Senators, one of the intimates, you are lifted up: like Bottom, you are
translated. You are the familiar of greatness.

As a legislator you deal with policies, international and domestic, in
the realm of ideas--as when you sit in your library, four square with
all the wisdom of the ages.

If you have enough of the boy about you, like Frelinghuysen, you enjoy
all this hugely. You have projected your ego beyond the limits of the
insurance business. You look among the branches of the Frelinghuysen
family tree without losing countenance. Who knows that there won't be
another "and Frelinghuysen" ticket, this time a successful one?

Not every senator has escaped so nearly from the failures which attend
success as has Frelinghuysen. Nor is his escape complete. A sense of
unreality haunts him. Aggressiveness in his case covers it, as it so
often does a feeling of weakness. After he has blustered through some
utterance, he will buttonhole you and ask, "Did I make a damn fool of
myself? Now, the point I was trying to make was, etc. Did I get it
clear? Or did I seem like a damn fool?"

Less agile minded than Senator Edge, he watches the motions of his New
Jersey colleague as a fascinated bird watches those of a snake or a cat.
Intellectually he is not at ease, even in the Senate.

Another of the Harding set is Harry New of Indiana, one of the "Wa'al
naow" school of statesmen, in dress and speech the perfect county
chairman of the stage. The broad-brimmed black felt hat, winter and
summer, has withstood all the insidious attacks of fashion. The nasal
voice has equally resisted all the temptations to conformity with the
softer tones which are now everywhere heard. In politics one has to be
regular, and New has the impulse to individuality, which with Borah and
LaFollette manifests itself in political isolation. With New it
manifests itself in hat and speech. New thus remains a person, not
merely a clothes-horse which is recorded "aye" when Mr. Lodge votes
"aye" and "no" when Mr. Lodge votes "no." But this is hardly fair. Mr.
New has been irregular in other ways. He has not made money; he has lost
it, a fortune in a stone quarry. He is indifferent to it. This marks him
as a person. He would rather whip a stream for trout than go after
dollars with a landing net.

Whipping a stream for trout is the clue to Harry New. If you are a
fisherman you impute all sorts of wiles to the fish. You match your wits
against the sharp wits under the water, and your ego is fortified when,
the day being dark and your hand being cunning, you land a mess from the
stream. The world is a trout stream to New. The hat and the nasal accent
are the good old flies that Isaak Walton recommended.

There is the type of mind which sees craft where others see simplicity.
We associate shrewdness with the kind of hat New wears and the kind of
voice he has preserved against the seductions of politeness. It is one
of our rural traditions. Suppose shrewdness that asks no more than
conversation and a small mess of fish. It is delightful. As we listen to
it arriving after the most penetrating exposition at the same
conclusions which we have reached directly and stupidly, we are
flattered. We realize that we, too, are shrewd, unconsciously so, as,
wasn't it Molière's bourgeois gentleman, who learned that he was
unconsciously a gentleman, since he had been doing all his life some of
the things that gentlemen did?

A playboy of the western plains, New would be happier if his colleague,
Jim Watson, did not also take himself seriously as a politician. "Jim,"
says New, "is an orator, a great orator, but he ought to let politics
alone; as a politician he is, like all orators a child."

New is no orator. A fair division would be for Watson to be the orator
and New the politician. But no one is ready to admit that he is no
politician. For New politics is craft; for Watson it is embraces. At a
dinner in Indiana, New contrived to have his rival for the senatorship,
Beveridge, and the politically outlawed Mayor of Indianapolis, Lew
Shank, not invited. Watson would have led them both in with an arm
around the neck of each. That individualism which makes New preserve the
hat and the accent makes him punish foes, or is it that the sense of
being "close to Harding" robs him of discretion?

In the board of aldermen of any large city you will find a dozen
Calders, local builders or contractors, good fellows who have the gift
of knowing everyone in their districts, who by doing little favors here
and there get themselves elected to the municipal legislature; they see
that every constituent gets his street sign and sidewalk encumbrance
permits, interview the police in their behalf when necessary, and the
bright young men who compose the traditional humor of the daily press
refer to them gaily as "statesmen."

The art of being a Senator like Calder is the art of never saying "no."
He is worth mentioning because he has the bare essentials of
senatorship, the habit of answering all letters that come to him, the
practice of introducing by request all bills that anyone asks to have
introduced, industry in seeking all jobs and favors that anyone comes to
him desiring.

He "goes to the mat" for everybody and everything. He shakes everybody's
hand. He is a good news source to representatives of the local press and
is paid for his services in publicity. New York is populous and sent
many soldiers to the late war. Nevertheless, the mother or father of a
soldier from that state who did not receive a personal letter from
Calder must have eluded the post office.

He votes enthusiastically for everything that everybody is for. He is
unhappy when he has to take sides on sharply debated issues. Morality is
a question of majorities. He finds safety in numbers.


Nature was not kind to Calder; it left him with no power to throw a
bluff. He is plainly what he is. He has neither words nor manner. His
colleagues look down on him a little. But most of them are after all
only Calder plus, and plus, generally speaking, not so very much. He is
the Senator reduced to the lowest terms.

Calder is timid, more timid than Frelinghuysen with his eternal
buttonholing you to ask what impression he has made, more timid than
anyone except Kellogg of Minnesota. The latter is in a constant state of
flutter. Little and wisplike physically he seems to blow about with
every breeze of politics. He is so unsure that his nerves are always on
edge, in danger of breaking. When he was balancing political
consequences over nicely during the League of Nations discussion,
Ex-President Taft said to him impatiently: "The trouble with you, Frank,
is that you have no guts." Kellogg straightened up all his
inches--physically he is a white-haired and bent Will H. Hays--and
replied, "I allow no man to say that to me." He fluttered out, and Mr.
Taft being kind-hearted followed him to apologize.

If you could analyze the uneasiness of Mr. Kellogg you would understand
the fear which haunts the minds of all Senators. Mr. Kellogg comes to
Washington after an enormously successful career at the bar. He is rich.
He is respected. His place in society is secure. What would the loss of
the senatorship mean to such a man? He ought to have all the confidence
which is supposed to be in the man who rises in the world, all that
which comes from an established position. Unlike most great lawyers who
retire into the Senate, Mr. Kellogg does not merely interest himself in
constitutional questions, like a child with molasses on its fingers
playing with feathers. He is industrious. He interests himself in the
Senate's business. He develops nice scruples which can not be brushed
aside. He wears himself out over them. He hesitates. He trembles. The
certainty with which his mind must have operated in the field of legal
principles deserts him in the field of political expediency. Or perhaps
it is that he sees both principles and expediency and can not choose
between the two.

Wadsworth of New York is an exception to the general run of Senators. He
belongs by birth to the class which is traditionally free from
hypocrisy. He is not boisterously contemptuous of the slavishness of
Senators as Penrose was. He is quietly contemptuous. His voice has a
note of well-bred impatience in it. He has not Penrose's pleasure in
mere shocking, but he has the aristocratic hatred of moral ostentation.
The kind of thing that is not done is the kind of thing that is not
done. You don't do it and make no parade of your abstinence. Wadsworth
does not open his home to all his New York colleagues in both houses
just because it is politically expedient. His house is his own, and
so is his conscience, which is not surrendered at the demands of woman
suffrage or of the dries. He has courage. He has convictions. He is
lonely. To be otherwise than lonely in the Senate you must be a
Frelinghuysen, an Elkins, a Newberry, a New, a Watson, or a Hale. He
will never be a leader. He has no more place in the Senate as it is than
Lord Robert Cecil, a much larger man, has in the House of Commons as it
is. Both belong to another day and generation. Neither is sure of
anything but himself and each counts the world well lost. Both represent
the aristocratic tradition.


Industry makes Reed Smoot one of the most useful of the Senators. He has
a passion for details. He reads all the bills. He makes himself a master
of the Government's appropriations and expenditures. He exudes figures
from every pore. By temperament Mr. Smoot is unhappy, and he finds cause
of dark foreboding in the mounting costs of government. His voice has a
scolding note. His manner and appearance is that of a village elder. His
heart is sore as he regards the political world about him, its
wastefulness, its consumption of white paper, on leaves to print and on
reports which no one reads. He is the aggrieved parent. "My children,"
he seems always to say, "you must mend your ways." He specializes in
misplaced commas. Nothing is too trivial for his all seeing eyes. In
committee he talks much, twice as much as anyone else, about points
which escape the attention of all his colleagues. Senators, wishing to
get through no matter how, regard him as a pest. Only an unimaginative
and uncreative mind can occupy itself as Smoot's does. He is a building
inspector rather than a builder. With his fussiness, his minor prophetic
voice, his holier-than-thou attitude toward waste, he can never be a
leader of the Senate to which the idle apprentice, the good fellow, who
dines out much in the Harding Senatorial set, the small business man
seeking a place in society, give its tone and character.

One can not present a complete gallery of the Senate in the space of a
single chapter. I have chosen a few characteristic figures, the leaders
past, present, and to come, the small business man who seeks social
preferment or the destruction of a title in Washington, such as Calder
and Frelinghuysen, the politician who likes to play the game better in
the Capitol than at home, like New, the aristocrat who escapes from the
boredom of doing nothing into the boredom of a democratic chamber, the
gradgrind legislator of whom there are few like Smoot, the half party
man, half bloc man like Capper.


All of these men belong to a party and are limited by that party's
weakness, its lack of principles, the caution which it has to use in
avoiding the alienation of its loosely held supporters. The party
program is something on which all kinds of people can stand. Necessarily
the party men in the Senate are tied down to a cause that is largely
negative. They can not be other than feeble and ineffective figures.

The weakness of parties has led to the emergence of a few outstanding
individual Senators who must be examined to see whether around them the
new Senate which will come with the shift of power and responsibility to
the legislative branch can be built. The most brilliant and interesting
of them is Senator Borah, but it is significant that the farm bloc
looking for a leader did not turn to him, but chose rather much less
significant and effective men.

Yet the Idaho Senator seems the natural rallying point for any movement
which will give new life and force to the Senate. He is established. He
is the most potent single individual in the upper house. So far as there
is any opposition to President Harding and his friends, Mr. Borah is
that opposition. His is the intelligence which inspires the Democratic
party when it consents to be inspired by intelligence. He believes that
the revolution has come, not one of street fighting and bomb throwing
but a peaceful change which has made the old parties meaningless,
destroyed the old authorities and set men free for the new grouping that
is to take place. Others in the Senate see this and are frightened.
Borah sees it and is glad. His bonds are loosed and he is a vastly
braver, sincerer and more effective Senator than ever before.

It is absurd to use the word radical of Borah, Johnson, or LaFollette,
for none of them is truly radical; but if one must do so for the lack of
any better term, then Borah is the conservatives' radical. The angriest
reactionary remains calm when his name is mentioned, perhaps because
Borah never gets into a passion himself and never addresses himself to
popular prejudice. He is not a mob orator. He is impersonal in his
appeals. No one any longer suspects him of an ambition to be President.
He seems, like a hermit, to have divorced himself from the earthly
passions of politics and to have become pure intellect operating in the
range of public affairs. He is almost a sage while still a Senator.

If we had the custom of electing our Ex-Presidents to the Senate, you
can imagine one of them, beyond the average of intelligence, freed from
ambition through having filled the highest office, occupying a place
like that of Borah.

Borah perhaps likes it too well ever to descend into the market place
and become a leader. His is an enviable lot, for he is the most nearly
free man in Washington; why should he exchange the immunity he possesses
for a small group of followers? Besides he believes in the power of
oratory rather than in the power of organization. He said to me at the
Republican Convention of 1916, "I could stampede this crowd for
Roosevelt." The crowd was thoroughly organized against Roosevelt.

Nature made him an orator, one of the greatest in the country. And he
has come to be satisfied with the gift he has. The unimportance of his
state, Idaho, has freed him from any illusions about himself with
respect to the Presidency. The habit of carrying a comb in his vest
pocket marks him as free from the social ambitions which number more
victims in the Senate than the ambition for the presidency. He is almost
a disembodied spirit politically, of the revolution he discerns he will
be a spectator.

Hiram Johnson is a declining figure. I see no reason to modify the
conclusion which was reached about him in the _Mirrors of Washington_,
that he thought more of men than of principles and especially of one
man, Johnson. The test of his sincerity came when the vote was reached
on the unseating of Senator Newberry for spending too much money in the
Michigan primaries.

Johnson's great issue a year before had been sanctity of popular
nominations. Yet when he had an opportunity to speak and act against a
brazen even though foolish attempt to buy a nomination, he was rushing
wildly across the continent, arriving after the vote had been taken.

On reaching Washington, he called his newspaper friends before him to
explain the difficulties and delays that had made him late. When he had
finished a nasal voice from the press remarked, "Senator, there will be
great public sympathy with you as a victim of the railroads. But the
people will only know how great their loss has been if you will tell
them now how you would have voted if you had been here." Johnson
adjourned the meeting hastily without a reply.

The absence from the roll call and the theatrical attempt to make it
appear accidental were typical. Johnson had won the Michigan primaries
in the national campaign of 1920. The delegates were in control of
Newberry's political friends. They remained firm for Johnson throughout
the balloting. Johnson avoided voting against their leader although his
principles required that he should lead the fight for his unseating.

Johnson has always over-emphasized Johnson. At the Progressive
convention in 1912 when Roosevelt was nominated for the Presidency and
Johnson for the Vice-Presidency, it was proposed, since both were in
attendance, to bring both on the stage and introduce them to the
delegates. The natural order was Roosevelt first, since he was the
nominee for President and since he was, moreover, one of the most
distinguished figures in the world, and Johnson, since he had second
place, second. But Johnson would go second to no man. Either he must
show himself on the stage first or not at all. Finally it was
compromised by presenting them together at the same moment, holding
hands upon the platform.

Johnson can never see himself in proper perspective. At the Progressive
convention he was more important than Roosevelt. In the Newberry case
his political fortunes were more important than honest primaries.

Senator Reed of Missouri is possessed of a devil. He is a satirist
turned politician. He has the _saeva indignatio_ of Swift. American life
with its stupidity, its facile optimism, its gullibility, its easy
compromises, its hypocrisy, fills him with rage. His face is shot red
with passion. His voice is angry. He is a defeated idealist left in this
barren generation without an ideal. He might have been led away by the
war as so many were, as Wilson was, into the belief that out of its
sufferings would come a purified and elevated humanity. But Reed is hard
to lead away. Where other men see beauty and hope he searches furiously
for sham. Where other men say cheerfully half a loaf is better than no
bread he puts the half loaf on the scales and proves that it is short

An old prosecuting attorney, he believes that guilt is everywhere. He is
always out for a conviction. If the evidence is insufficient he uses all
the arts, disingenuous presentations, appeals to prejudice, not because
he is indifferent to justice but because the accused ought to be hanged
anyway, and he is not going to let lack of evidence stand in the way of
that salutary consummation.

He conducts a lifelong and passionate fight against the American
practice of "getting away with it." Shall Hoover get away with it as a
great and pure man, the benefactor of the race! Not while Jim Reed has
breath in his body! Here is an American idol, tear it down, exhibit its
clay feet! Shall Wilson "get away with it," with his League of Nations
and his sublimated world set free from all the baser passions of the
past? Not while any acid remains on Jim Reed's tongue!

Reed is sincere. He hates sham. He nevertheless himself uses sham to
fight sham. He is the nearest thing to a great satirist this country has
developed. And the amazing consideration is that in a nation which
dislikes satire a satirist should be elected by the suffrage of his

Probably it is only in politics that we tolerate satire. In
self-government we only half believe. We are divided in our own minds.
We make laws furiously and laugh at the laws we make. We pretend that
the little men of politics are great and then privately we indicate our
real perception of the truth by telling how small they are. Politics is
suspect and it stamps you as a person of penetration to show that you
are aware what sham and dishonesty there is in them. It is almost as
good an evidence of a superior mind as to say, "Of course I don't
believe what I read in the newspapers." Now satire is enjoyed by
superior minds, and it is only with regard to politics that we as a
people have superior minds, politics not being like business the pursuit
of honest everyday folk.

Jim Reed is then that part of ourselves which tells us that
self-government is a good deal of a sham, in the hands of amusing
charlatans. We tolerate him in perhaps the only place where we would
tolerate a satirist, in the Senate. And in the Senate they fear him.

He was attacking the Four Power Pact. "People say," he declared, "that
this ends the Anglo-Japanese alliance. I do not find it in the pact. I
do not find it nominated in the bond," he shouted. And the friends of
the pact sat silent afraid of Reed's power as a debater, until Senator
Lenroot having studied the document several minutes in the cloakroom
read the plain language of the agreement to end the alliance. Reed
almost "got away with it" himself. But this is not leadership. One does
not follow a satirist. One makes him a privileged character at most.

Reed and Borah are privileged characters each in his own way. The
privilege of being "queer" is as old as the herd itself. The harmless
insane man was almost sacred in primitive society. The "fool" was the
only man whose disrespect did not amount to _lése majesté_. The wisdom
of the "fool" was regarded with a certain awe and admiration. But the
death rate among those who sought this franchise must have been high.
It must be personality which decides who survives and achieves this
license and who does not, a nice capacity for adjustment, a rare sense
of what the crowd will endure. Borah and Reed have it, LaFollette has
not or has not chosen to exercise it.

George Moore somewhere says that if you can convince a woman that it is
all play, all Pan and nymph, between you and her, you have the perfect
way of a man with a maid, when his aim is something short of matrimony.
But if you are too serious about it--! LaFollette is perhaps too serious
about it. If he could have said what he had to say with a laugh and so
as to raise a laugh he might have been privileged like Reed, or, if he
had to be serious, he should have been serious like Borah, in a detached
and impersonal fashion; then perhaps he might still have been something
less than the public enemy that he is. But LaFollette is serious,
terribly serious, terribly in earnest. He has had convictions, clung to
them, and probably suffered more for them than any man in Washington.

The Wisconsin Senator is one of the least understood men in public life.
In the Senate he speaks violently, with a harsh voice and an excess of
manner. He is small and some of this loudness and emphasis is no doubt
that compensation for lack of stature and presence to which men
unconsciously resort; some of it is an exterior which has been
cultivated to cover up an unusually shy and sensitive heart. The
character in history and fiction which most intrigues him is Hamlet,
that gentle soul unfit for life. He has spent years studying the shy
Dane. He himself is a Hamlet who has taken up arms against a sea of
troubles. The "queer" man who would gain a franchise for his "queerness"
must not be sensitive. The crowd likes better to persecute than to

Then too LaFollette entered the Senate when minorities were less
tolerable than they are today. He got the stamp of impossible when
Roosevelt led a movement in his direction and he refused to be a part of
it. Thus he became isolated, neither Progressive nor Old Guard. You can
not safely be too uncompromising, too serious. It makes no difference if
you were right in rejecting both wings of the party as reactionary which
they speedily proved to be. It makes no difference if you were right in
opposing the war, and no one is so sure today that LaFollette was wrong
in doing so as men were when it was proposed to expel him from the
Senate. Justification after the fact does no good. It is not your
wrongness that they hate; it's your uncompromising quality, and that
remains more unbreakable than ever.

An unusual loyalty explains the unwillingness to compromise. LaFollette
attaches himself deeply. A characteristic act was his leaving the Senate
for months to nurse a sick son back to health. It sets him apart from
most men, who do not let sickness in the family interfere with their
business and perform their full duty when they hire a trained nurse.
People think of LaFollette, the public man, as an egoist but this
nursing of his son showed the utmost absence of egoism. And so it is
with all his intimate relations, which are unusually sweet and tender.

Whatever he is like privately, publicly he is placed, rated, catalogued;
the general mind is made up. The farm bloc no more turned to him than to
Borah for leadership. He will always remain isolated.

Now that party discipline has been broken down, what nonconformist
Senators suffer most from is the tyranny of the teapot. Senator Kenyon
referred to it when he said Newberry on trial for fitness for his seat
"floated back into the Senate on an ocean of tea." An unparliamentary
version of the same reference to the social influence is: "The Senate is
one long procession of dinners and hootch."

If you are regular politically you are regular socially. Given the habit
of voting with the crowd, of putting others at ease by a not too great
display of intellect, a good cook, a pre-war cellar, and a not
impossible wife, and you belong to the Senatorial middle class, the new
rich insurance agents, lawyers, miners, and manufacturers who control
the fate of the socially ambitious. You may not be invited to the
Wadsworths', or may be seldom asked there. But you are accepted by what
Mencken might call the wealthy "booboisie," the circle Mr. Harding
frequented before he was advanced to the White House.

If you don't you are of the Senatorial proletariat. You are invited out
seldom or not at all. You have to organize a little set of
intellectuals, not found in the Senate, for your wife's tea parties.

Senator Kenyon was a moderate nonconformist. Intellectually he was
honest, but not strong, so that an outsider might have thought that his
honesty and independence would be overlooked. But he was never accepted
by the "booboisie." He was virtually cold shouldered out of the Senate,
for it was with immense relief that he escaped from teapot ostracism to
the securer social area of the Federal bench.

I repeat a bit of gossip about the Iowa Senator without vouching for it.
When he was retiring, it is said, a reporter asked, "What can be done
with the Senate?" "Nothing," replied the Iowan, "The only thing to do is
to destroy it." If he said this he really flattered the "booboisie."
Destruction is reserved for wicked things like Sodom and Gomorrah. But
the Senate is not wicked. It is good, honest in the sense of not
stealing, well-meaning, timid, petty, tea-drinking, human, commonplace.
You can't destroy it unless you have something to put in its place, and
there is nothing. Much better turn it over to the blocs and see what
they will do with it.



As well fear blocs and minorities as fear the centrifugal force on the
ground that it is seeking to pull us off the face of the earth.
Minorities are the centrifugal force of politics. They maintain the
balance of forces which makes political existence possible. Without them
the State would become unbearable; it would destroy us or we should be
compelled to destroy it.

We have just passed through a period, the war, in which minorities were
suppressed, in which the general will brooked no resistance, in which
the bodies of men between certain ages and the minds of men and women of
all ages were brought into compulsory service of the State. The mental
draft dodger went to jail just as much as the physical draft dodger.

A Chief of an Industrial Workers of the World Longshoremans' Union was
sentenced for twenty years because he was an I. W. W., although under
his direction his organization handled efficiently all the munitions of
war shipped from Philadelphia. He "obstructed the war" by his thoughts
as an I. W. W., even though his actions as a citizen contributed to
success in the war.

One may tolerate during a national emergency the oppression that results
from the crushing of minorities, but in time of peace it is only in the
balance of political forces that political existence may go on.

All freedom is the work of minorities and so is all change. Respect for
opinion is dearly bought by them. Majority views were all once minority
views. Some political theorists even go so far as to say that all
governments, no matter what apparent precautions are taken to represent
majorities, are really conducted by minorities. Without the effective
resistance of minorities the general will may become tyrannous or
without the stimulus they afford it may become inert.

The blocs and minorities that are appearing in American public life are
accomplishing a measure of decentralization. The highly centralized
government which we recently built up is itself passing into the control
of the various economic subdivisions of society. In them rather than in
it is coming to be final authority.

Take freight rates for an illustration. Originally they were localized,
in the unrestricted control of the railroad managers. Then they were
slightly centralized in the partial control of state and partial
control of national authorities. Then control was wholly centralized in
the Inter-State Commerce Commission at Washington, the States being
denied effective authority even over rates within their own borders.

There you have bureaucracy at its worst, authority in the hands of an
appointive commission, thousands of miles, in many cases, from the place
where it was applied, and a public feeling its impotence, which is the
negation of self-government.

Then comes the first step in decentralization. No locality, no State was
big enough to reach out and get back the authority over its own railroad
service that it once had. But the organized farmers of the whole country
were able to take into their hands the power over the railroads as it
affected them. Nominally the Inter-State Commerce Commission still makes
rates. Practically the farmers, having the balance of power in the House
and Senate, say what rates they want on agricultural products and get
them. That is decentralization.

The division into States which the jealous colonists preserved in
forming the Union has largely lost its significance. Men divide now
according to their interests, not according to boundaries that may be
learned in the school geographies. As the States weakened many of their
powers gradually tended to be centralized in the national government. As
the newer economic subdivisions of society become organized and
self-assertive some of the power thus centralized in Washington
devolves upon them, not legally or formally, but actually and in
practice. They constitute minorities too large to be denied.

It is only through decentralization that popular institutions can be
kept alive, only through it that government remains near enough to the
people to hold their interest and only through it that freedom from an
oppressive State is preserved.

Why should minorities be regarded with such aversion? Why should
President Harding declaim against them so persistently? Our Federal
Constitution is written full of safeguards for minorities. The reservoir
of power is in the minorities, the States, the local subdivisions which
feared the loss of their identity and independence through the central
government they were creating.

Only powers expressly yielded by the local units may be assumed by the
Republic. The States were the minorities; they felt when they joined the
Union that their rights as minorities had to be jealously guarded, in
order that they might have the realities of self-government.

You have in the rule that the small State must have as many Senators as
the large State a sharp assertion of the right of geographical
minorities. If the larger States had not accepted this principle the
smaller States would never have joined the Union.

Gradually these geographical minorities lost their importance in the
public consciousness. Our people had come and kept coming to this
country from the ends of the earth. Arriving here they continued to be
nomads, sweeping over the West in search of new pasture lands or more
fertile soil, moving from the farm to the city and thrusting their roots
in nowhere. No difference of language or customs set up arbitrary

Moreover we were the first people to settle a land where modern methods
of locomotion destroyed the use and wont of limited localities. Instead
of being citizens of New York united with the citizens of New Jersey,
Connecticut, and the rest of them for the common defense, as our
forefathers imagined, we became citizens of the United States, which was
divided into New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and the rest for
purposes of policing, road-making, and other functions that could be
better managed at home than from Washington.

A State began to assume about the same place in the Union that a county
does in a State.

The basic reality for our forefathers was the State, the Union existing
for the convenience of the States. The basic reality for us is the
Union, the States existing for the convenience of the Union, which is
too vast to administer everything from a central point.

As the geographical subdivisions lost their significance economic
subdivisions rose to take their place. The farmer of Kansas began to
have more in common with the farmer of Iowa than he had with the coal
miner of his own State. The nationwide organization of farmers resulted,
and it is a more real unit in the political consciousness than is that
unit on which the Fathers laid such stress, the State. It is a minority
that has no reserve rights under the Constitution but which achieves its
rights by force of numbers and organization.

These economic subdivisions are the reality today. The United States is
a union of the State of Agriculture, the State of Labor, the State of
Manufacturing, and a dozen other occupational States of greater or less
importance. And after all why should not Agriculture, Manufacturing,
Labor, Foreign, and Domestic Commerce form a union for the national
defense, carefully reserving essential powers to themselves as States,
just as the thirteen original colonies did? Why should we let this new
political organism keep us awake nights?

Nationally we have a complex on the subject of disunion. Fortunate
perhaps is the country which is subject to the pressure of a foreign
enemy on its border, as France is, for example, to that of Germany. If
you have a convenient foe to be afraid of you do not have to be afraid
of yourselves. It seems to be the rule that nations like individuals
must have fears and the American phobia is that this country will
proceed amoeba-wise by scission, into several countries. When we feel
a weakening at the center we feel a horror in the peripheries.

We fought one great war to prevent a breaking up of the Union and
whenever we hear the word "section," we become apprehensive. And just as
"section" fills our minds with fear of cleavage upon geographical lines,
so "class" arouses anxiety over cleavage upon social lines. "Class"
calls up the spectre of socialism. "Bloc" moreover is a word of unhappy
associations. It brings into the imagination Europe with all its turmoil
and its final catastrophe.

The Civil War left us with one complex. The European War left us with
another. The agricultural bloc touches both, suggesting division and
upon European lines. Being agricultural it is vaguely sectional; being
the projection of a single interest into national politics so as to cut
across parties, it follows European precedents. It moreover derives its
name from abroad.

Call it log-rolling by the farmers, however, and it relates to the
habitual method of American legislation. It conforms to our best
traditions. We never spoke of the groups which filled pork barrels of
the past as blocs, but every river and harbor bill was the work of
minorities uniting to raid the treasury. The two recent amendments to
the Constitution, granting the suffrage to women and prohibiting the
manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages, were also achieved

The organized minorities of the past dissolved when their end was
obtained. They had a specific rather than a general purpose. Usually it
was a moral purpose, the prohibition of alcoholic drinks, or political
justice for woman. Never until recently did a minority raise the
economic interests of one section of society against those of the rest
of society and promise to keep on raising them. The farm bloc is the
first permanent economic minority to organize itself effectively for
political action.

The phenomenon is not that the bloc impairs our political system; it
does not; majority rule is always tempered by minority rule or it
becomes either a tyranny or a dead thing. It is that it threatens our
pocketbooks. It obtains low railroad rates on farm products. It shifts
taxes from farmers to the rest of us. It secures for farmers special aid
in the form of government credits.

Nevertheless its appearance is the most hopeful sign in Washington that
we may emerge from the governmental bog into which we have sunk. We had
centralized to the point of creating an immense and dull bureaucracy
headed by a weak Executive and equally weak Congress. Interest in
self-government was being destroyed by the mere remoteness and
irresponsiveness of the mechanism. "The parties are exactly alike. What
difference does it make which is in power?"

We had created an organization too vast for any one to take it in hand.
And the only remedy in that case is to break the organization down.
Decentralization into States was impossible, for men never go back to
outworn forms, and State boundaries had ceased to be the real lines of
division in American society. A way out of this difficulty has been
found through the seizing of power by occupational organizations, of
which the farm bloc is the most famous and most successful.

We could not go on as we are, with an enfeebled Executive and an
enfeebled Congress. And, if I have analyzed the situation correctly, we
shall have no more strong Executives, until some national emergency
unites the people temporarily for the accomplishment of some single
purpose. The Executive is the greatest common divisor of a diverse
society. Congress, equally, is weak so long as it remains a Congress
based upon the present theory of party government, for the party has to
be stretched out too thin, has to represent too many different views to
have character and purpose. Steadily parties are being driven more and
more to pure negation. Wilson was elected the first time on the negative
issue, "No more Roosevelt and his radicalism," and the second time on
the negative issue, "He kept us out of war," and Harding upon the
negative issue, "No more Wilson."

If the two existing parties cannot be positive and constructive, "Why
not scrap them both?" asks Mr. Samuel G. Blythe. Why not, indeed?
except for the fact that you can find no principle upon which to found a
third party. If there were a positive principle upon which a majority of
the voters would agree the existing parties would grab for it. They are
colorless and negative not by choice but by necessity.

Let us look at the situation. The public is disgusted with the existing
parties and becoming indifferent to the possibilities of the suffrage
and of popular government, an unhealthy sign. A new party is out of the
question, for to succeed any new party must be broad enough to cover all
sorts and conditions of men, divergent groups and interests. It must at
once have the defects of the old parties.

So long as parties "must be careful," to quote Mr. Harding, executives
must "be careful" and Congress organized on the party basis "must be
careful." We gravitate toward negation.

We face in government perhaps what it is said we face in industry and in
war, organization on such a scale that men are no longer masters of it.
Under such circumstances there is nothing to do but to break it up into
its component parts. That is what the group or bloc system is, a
resolution into component parts.

It is precisely what will happen in the industrial field if the great
combinations of twenty years ago prove too unwieldy. The vertical trust,
the single industry, organized like the Stinnes group or like the Henry
Ford industry from the raw material to the finished product but seeking
no monopoly, promises to take the place of the horizontal trust of
monopolistic tendency. The bloc is a vertical organization appearing in
the field of politics, which hitherto has been dominated by the
horizontal organization of the parties.

A vertical organization, like everything vertical in this world, tends
to rest upon the solid earth. It has its base in reality. The bloc
introduces reality into public life. It will be represented by men who
are not ashamed to stand frankly for the selfish interests of their

When we banished selfish interests from the government a few years ago
we banished all interests--and even all interest, too--leaving very
little but hypocrisy and timidity. The representatives of a group will
not have to be all things to all men as our party men are, but only one
thing to one kind of men.

If we cannot get our present parties to stand for anything, if for the
same reason we cannot form a new party to stand for anything, we can at
least introduce principles into politics through the force of group
support. Blocs will be positive, not merely negative as the parties have
become. They do not have to please everybody. They can and must be

The clash of ideas which we miss between parties may take place between
blocs. I am assuming, as everyone in Washington does, that the farm
bloc is only a forerunner of other similar political efforts, for every
economic interest which is organized among the voters may extend itself
vertically into Congress.

There will be a gain in decentralization, there will be a gain in
honesty, there will be a gain in constructive political effort through
the direct representation of the real interests of society in Congress.

Nor does there appear any danger of the break up into utterly unrelated
minorities such as has taken place, let us say, in France and Germany.
We have what most European countries has not, an elected Executive who
plays an important part in legislation, the President with his veto
power. So long as the presidential office retains this function, and it
is always likely to retain it, there must be national parties within
which the minorities, interests, or occupational groups, must coöperate.

Groups will not be able in this country as in Europe to elect members of
the national legislature independently, then form a combination and pick
their own Executive. They are under compulsion to elect the Executive at
large by the votes of the whole people; they must hold together enough
for that purpose.

The centrifugal tendency of minorities in the American system is thus
effectively restrained. Groups must work within the parties, as the
agricultural bloc has done and as the proposed liberal workers bloc
promises to do. A handful of seats in Congress alone is not worth
fighting for: that is why all third party movements have failed. A
handful of seats in a European parliament is worth having; it may
dictate the choice of the Executive; that is why parties are numerous
abroad. In other words "bloc" is a useful name as indicating a radical
departure in our political system but it contains no threat for this
country of the political disintegration prevailing in Europe.

The names Republican and Democrat are likely to last as convenient
designations of the accord reached for national purposes between the
vertical organizations which represent economic or other group interests
of the people. Unity is thus preserved as well as diversity, which is
what upon geographical lines, the Father of the Constitution sought.

You have only to regard the agricultural bloc to perceive the truth of
this analysis. Primarily its members are Republicans or Democrats and
only secondarily representatives of agriculture. They have rejected
leadership of a separatist tendency, choosing the moderate guidance of
Mr. Kenyon and Mr. Capper rather than the more individualistic
generalship of Mr. Borah or Mr. La Follette. Some day their successors
may be primarily representatives of agriculture and only secondarily
Republicans or Democrats, but in one of the two big parties they must
retain their standing, or share the fate of third parties, a fate
made inevitable by the necessity electing of a chief executive at


When the farmer votes for legislators who will represent primarily the
farm interest, and the laborer for legislators who will represent
primarily the labor interest and the business man for legislators who
will represent the business interests self-government will assume a new
importance, even though all of these interests will have to be
subordinated to the general interest for the sake of coöperation with a
party in the choice of an Executive.

I have compared the group organization to the vertical trust of the
industrial world. The resemblance is striking. Take the instance of Herr
Stinness, the most interesting figure in manufacturing today. Originally
he was a coal mine owner. Instead of spreading laterally to monopolize
coal he builds upward from his raw material to finished products. He
adds iron to his holdings and manufactures electrical supplies and
electricity. He owns his own ships for the carrying of his products. He
would buy railroads from the German government for the transporting of
them. He owns newspapers for political action. And the whole
organization culminates with himself in the Reichstag, and in
international relations where he is almost as significant a figure as
the German government itself.

Mr. Henry Ford, a lesser person, started at the other end and organized
downward to the raw material. He now owns his own mines, his railroads
for shipping, his raw material and products, his steel foundries, the
factories which turn out his finished products, his weekly newspaper,
and he is himself a political figure of no one yet knows how much

The farmers are organized for social purposes, for the distribution of
information among themselves, for coöperation in buying and selling, for
maintaining a lobby at Washington and finally for political action.
Political action crowns an organization which serves all the purposes
for which union is required.

Practically every other interest is organized to the point of
maintaining a lobby at Washington. Only the farmers have developed
organization in Congress. Only they have adapted their organization to
all their needs, social and political. Only they have the perfect
vertical trust running straight up from the weekly entertainment in the
union or bureau to the Senate in Washington, where their Senators do the
bidding of their agent, Mr. Gray Silver.

Indispensable to effective special interest representation seems to be
an organization for other than political purposes which brings the
voters of a class or occupation together. Labor has such an organization
in its unions. Business has it perhaps in its Chambers of Commerce and
Boards of Trade. Either of them has the means at its disposal for
imitating the farmers and developing a bloc in the national legislature.

It is natural that the farm interest should be the first to push its way
beyond the lobby or propaganda stage at Washington to that of organized
representation on the floor of Congress. Agriculture is the single
interest or the immensely predominating interest in many States. A
Senator or Representative from such a state may safely consider himself
a representative of agriculture. But in a more fully developed community
there is a diversity of interests. Where there is capital there is also
labor. Moreover most of the industrial States have also their
agricultural interest. It is not safe for an Eastern Senator or
Representative, as the situation now stands, to identify himself with
any minority. He must at least pretend to "represent the whole people."

If the vertical movement in politics proceeds, as it almost inevitably
must, it will manifest itself effectively first in the lower house.
Congress districts are small units. In an industrial State one district
may be prevailingly agricultural, another prevailingly labor, another
prevailingly commercial. Groups operating within a party will tend to
parcel out the districts among themselves holding their support of each
other's candidates, as the Liberal and Labor parties have often done in

The Senate will be less responsive. States are large units and, except
in farming regions, are not prevailingly of one interest. But a division
may be effected like that which now gives one Senator to the eastern and
another to the western, or one to the urban and another to the rural
part of the State. One Senator may go to business and another to
agriculture or to labor as the case may be.

What I have just written is by way of illustration. I have spoken of
agricultural, labor and business blocs not because these are the only
divisions of society that may be organized for political purpose but
because they already have the basic machinery and seem certain to thrust
upwards till they are prominently represented in Congress. Other
minority interests are already showing themselves, as for example the
soldiers of the late war and the inland waterways group. These and
others like them, some permanent and some temporary, will cut across the
main subdivisions, so that men who are divided on one interest will be
united on another and thus furnish a further cement in the body politic
in addition to the necessity of joint action upon the presidency.

Thus there is less danger of our being ruled by minorities than there is
of minorities having to surrender too much of their purposes for the
sake of unity among themselves and of our thus being in spite of their
organization little better off than we are now, reduced by the sheer
mass that has to be moved to a policy of inaction and negation.

In an earlier chapter I analyzed the Senate to show how weak and
will-less it is and how inferior is its personnel, how prostrate it lies
before any powerful minority which has a purpose and the will to carry
it out. I used the Senate as typical of Congress; a desire to save space
and to avoid repetitions kept me from a similar study of the House. In
the same way the parties lie ready for the uses of minorities. They are
will-less. They have no aim and express no unity because when the old
pioneer will to exploit as quickly as possible the national resources
without regard to waste, physical or social, ceased to operate, there
was no unity, except, as I have explained, for temporary purposes, for
social defense under Roosevelt and for national defense under Wilson,
two essentially negative ends.

Mr. Will H. Hays trying to tell the Republican senate how to vote on the
League covenant, was a less powerful figure than was Mr. Wayne B.
Wheeler ordering it to vote that more than one half of one per cent of
alcohol in a beverage was intoxicating, or Mr. Gray Silver forcing it to
extend credits to farmers, or Colonel Taylor frightening it into voting
for a soldiers' bonus.

The old party bosses are dead. No machine leader will control as many
delegates in the next national convention as will Mr. Gray Silver. So
far as delegates are now led they are led by Senators and
Representatives. A Senate group chose Mr. Harding at Chicago. And
Senators and Representatives lie at the mercy of organized minorities.

The Republican party in 1920 was an agglomeration of minorities, held
together by no better binder than the negation of Wilsonism. There were
the German vote, the Irish vote and the other foreign votes; the farmer
vote, the business vote, the old American vote, the frightened vote, the
herd vote and every conceivable kind of vote. It was in effect a bloc,
in the European sense of that word, a combination of small parties.
These minorities were mostly unorganized in 1920 or imperfectly
organized; their development vertically is now going on. Some of them
will appear as definitely upon the floor of the 1924 convention as the
agricultural group has upon the floor of Congress.

With the organization of minorities Congress becomes important, for it
is in Congress that the Fathers in their wisdom provided for the
expression of minorities. The Presidency, according to the argument used
before in this book, dwindles to a charming embodiment of that great
American negative--nationwide public opinion. The only ordinarily
available positive--group opinion--finds its play in the Legislature.
There will be determined upon whose shoulders the taxes will be shifted,
who shall have effective rebates in freight rates, and more important
still, who shall use for his group interests the government control of
credit. Where these questions are being decided there public
attention will concentrate. There will be the stress upon government.


As Congress becomes more important better men will be drawn into it.
There will be a gain to public life in this country from emphasis upon
the parliamentary side of government. As it is now only one prize in
American politics is worth while and that is the Presidency. And there
is no known rule by which men may attain to it. Candidates for it are
chosen at random, from governing a State, from an obscure position in
the Senate, from the army, it may be; in no case does it come as the
certain reward of national service.

And if, as happened when Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Wilson were made
President, really able men attain the office, they may serve their
country only four years, or eight years at most, and then must retire
from view. In England, for example, similar men are at the head of the
government or leading the opposition for the greater part of a lifetime.
English public life would inevitably look richer than ours even were it
not richer, for when they breed a statesman in England they use him for
years. We discard him after four or eight years. We have not the system
for developing statesmen and when by chance we find one we waste him.

We put our faith in the jack-of-all-trades and the amateur. We have the
cheerful notion that the "crisis produces the man." This is nothing
more than the justice illusion which is lodged in the minds of men, an
idea, religious in its origin, that no time of trial would arrive unless
the man to meet it were benignantly sent along with it, a denial of
human responsibility, an encouragement to the happy-go-lucky notion that
everything always comes out right in the end.

The world, in going through the greatest crisis in history has
controverted this cheerful belief, for it has not produced "the man"
either here or elsewhere. No one appeared big enough to prevent the war.
No one appeared big enough to shorten the war. No one appeared big
enough to effect a real peace. And no one appeared big enough to guide
this country wisely either in the war or in the making of peace, which
is still going on.

Only in parliamentary life is there enough permanency and enough
opportunity for the breeding of statesmen. We shall never have them
while the Presidency with its hazards and its wastes is stressed as it
has been in recent years.

And Congress itself must be reformed before it will encourage and
develop ability. The seniority rule, to which reference has been made
before, must be abolished before talent will have its opportunity in the
legislative branch.

One of the first things that aggressive minorities would be likely to do
is to reach out for the important committee chairmanships. Already the
seniority rule has been broken in the House, when Martin Madden was
made Chairman of the Appropriations Committee instead of the senior
Republican, an inadequate person from Minnesota.

And in any case the seniority rule will be severely tested in the
Senate. If Senator McCumber is defeated in North Dakota and Senator
Lodge is defeated or dies, Senator Borah will be in line to be chairman
of the important Foreign Relations Committee. When Senator Cummins, who
is sick, dies or retires and Senator Townsend is defeated, which now
seems likely, Senator LaFollette will be in line to be chairman of the
Senate Committee on Interstate Commerce. Both irregulars will then
attain places of vast power unless the seniority rule is abrogated.

Thus even the machine in the Senate will soon be under pressure to do
away with the absurd method of awarding mere length of service with
power and place.

Minorities when they determine to take the Senate and the House out of
the enfeebled grasp of incompetent regularity will inevitably find
precedents already established for them.

A richer public life will come from the breakdown of the safeguards of
mediocrity and from the stressing of the legislative at the expense of
the executive branch of the government. Both these results are likely to
follow from the effective appearance of minority interests in Congress.



I have hesitated a long time over writing this last chapter, because of
the natural desire to give to my book a happy ending.

One may write critically of America and things American, but only if one
ends in a mood of hopeful confidence. There is so much youth, so much
latent power here, that one cannot fail to have faith that the spirit of
man will gain some enlargement from the experiment in living which we
are carrying on in this country.

And even if that were not true, egotism requires us to believe that we
are ever going forward to better things; for how should "the forces"
have the effrontery to establish so splendid a people as ourselves upon
so rich a continent, while reserving for us nothing but a commonplace
career, that of one of the many peoples who have from time to time
occupied the fairer regions of the earth?

At least we shall fill a place in history alongside Greece and Rome; we
feel it as the imaginative young man feels in himself the stirrings of
a future Shakespeare, Napoleon, or Lincoln.

The human mind refuses to conceive of so much power coming to ordinary
ends. The justice illusion which men have found so indispensable a
companion on their way through time requires the happy ending. As it is
only right and fair that when the forces send us a crisis they should
send us a man equal to it, so it is only right and fair that when they
put so great a people as ourselves in the world they should prepare for
it a splendid destiny.

I subscribe heartily to this doctrine. It is as convincing as any I have
ever seen based on the theory which we all cheerfully accept, that man
is not master of his own fate, that he does not need to be, that he had
better not be, that he reaps where he does not sow, reaps, indeed,
abundant crops.

In the preceding chapter, working toward the happy ending, I have
brought my characters to the verge of felicity: the perfect union
between minorities and majorities, which is the aim of all social order,
is in sight.

I have based my minorities upon self-interest, thus introducing into our
government the selfish interests banished therefrom twenty years ago.
Their banishment was an achievement of virtue. Their reintroduction is
the accomplishment of good sense. They are the great reality while the
world thinks as it does.

Since someone somewhere, in a treatise on economics probably, penned
the phrase "enlightened self-interest," we have all more or less become
enamored of the idea that wisdom--enlightenment--reposes in the bosom of
selfishness. Justice requires that wisdom should be somewhere. The
reasoning runs like this. The world cannot get on without wisdom.
Justice demands that the world should get on. Therefore there is wisdom
in the world. We know it is not in ourselves or in our neighbors. We
feel, therefore, that it must be in the bosom of perfect selfishness.
And as we cast our eyes about us we think we know where the bosom of
perfect selfishness is, and we feel assured.

Sometimes, of course, we place it in the heads of all mankind, it being
a thing that no one man has and no few men have, but which is one of
those mysterious properties of the aggregate which does not inhere in
the individuals composing the aggregate; a sort of colloidal element
that comes from shaking men up together, though all are without it
before the mixing and shaking.

Some would place it, as Mr. Wilson seems to in a famous passage on
minorities, in the breasts of the enlightened few. When the few
disagreed with him, he threw them and their wisdom in jail.

But wherever it is, it is sure to be found in a system which preserved
the old parties representing the general mind of the country along with
the new vertical political organizations, representing the minorities,
thrusting up like volcanoes upon the placid plane of politics that Mr.
Harding once delighted to survey.

You have in this combination the spontaneous wisdom of the masses, if
that is where wisdom generates. You have the wisdom of the few, if you
believe in impregnation from above, and you have the wisdom of
selfishness, if you believe as most of us do in the enlightenment of
self-interest. And no one ever located wisdom anywhere else than in
these three places, for the first, as I might easily demonstrate, is the
modern democratic name for the wisdom of God; the second is the wisdom
of men; and the third is the wisdom of the serpent; beside which there
are no other wisdoms.

This you will admit is moving rapidly and without reserve toward the
happy ending. But I think every writer of a novel has stuck his tongue
in his cheek as he wrote those benedictory words, "And they lived happy
ever after." And I stick my tongue in my cheek as I think of Mr. Gray
Silver, the effective director of the farmers' vertical political trust
sitting in the Senate, leading it perhaps in place of Senator Lodge of

To Mr. Lodge's petulant, imperious gesture--the sharp handclap for the
pages--would succeed Mr. Silver's fixing gesture, that of a country
merchant smoothing out a piece of silk before a customer at a counter.
Mr. Silver as he talks performs one constant motion, a gentle slow
moving of both hands horizontally, palms down.

Mr. Silver is a lobbyist with the powers of a dictator, or a dictator
with the habits of a lobbyist, whichever way you wish to look at it. A
former farmer, member of the West Virginia legislature, representative
of farm organizations at Washington, he rules the Senate with more power
than Mr. Lodge has or Mr. Harding has, but always with the gentle touch
of a general-storekeeper, spreading the wrinkles out of a yard of satin.

But even this little lobbyist has a certain definiteness which public
men generally lack. His feet are firmly placed upon reality. He speaks
for a solid body of opinion. He is a positive rather than a negative
force. He represents a fairly united minority which knows what it wants,
and men are strong or weak according as they are or are not spokesmen of
a cause; and the selfish interest of a group easily takes on the pious
aspect of a cause.

It is always better to deal with principals than with agents. Gray
Silver, Colonel John H. Taylor, the Apollo of the soldiers' bonus lobby,
perfect ladies' man in appearance, who is full of zeal also for a cause,
that of those who did not make money out of the war and who should in
common justice make it all the rest of their lives out of the peace, and
Wayne B. Wheeler, the fanatic leader of the drys, are all more real men
than those who do their bidding in the Senate and the House.

No, if I put my tongue in my cheek as I write the words "lived happy
ever after," it is because I see only a measure of improvement in the
freeing of men from existing political conventions which will come from
the effective emergence of minorities. A richer public life will result
from increased vitality of the legislative branch. But a rich public
life, no; for that requires men. You cannot fashion it out of Lodges,
Watsons, Curtises, Gillettes, Mondells, Hardings, Hugheses, and Hoovers,
or even Gray Silvers, Taylors, or Wheelers.

And we do not breed men in this country. If the test of a civilization
is an unusually high average of national comfort, achieved in a land of
unparalleled resources, whose exploitation was cut off from interruption
by foreign enemies, then this experiment in living which we have been
conducting in America has been a great success; if it is a further
freeing of the human spirit, such as finds its expression in the rare
individuals who make up the bright spots in all past human history, then
its success is still to be achieved.

Many blame the dullness and general averageness which afflicts us upon
democracy. There is democracy and there is timidity and stupidity; there
is the appeal to low intelligence; the compulsion to be a best seller
rests upon us all. _Post hoc propter hoc._

I am going to blame it upon the mistake Euclid made in his theorem about
two parallel lines. This was an error of Euclid's, modern mathematics
proves, unless you assume space to be infinite. Having committed
ourselves to Euclid, we committed ourselves to a space that was
infinite. Space being regarded as infinite, man was little, relatively.

Euclid having made his mistake about the parallels, it followed
inevitably that Mr. Harding should be little.

I use Mr. Harding only by way of illustration. You may fill any other
name you like of the Washington gallery into that statement of
inevitability and do it no violence. And this very interchangeability of
names suggests that you must go further back than democracy to find the
cause of today's sterility.

Besides, we have had infinite space, in our minds; but have we ever had
democracy there? De Gourmont writes that no religion ever dies, but it
rather lives on in its successor. Similarly, no form of government ever
dies; it survives in its successor. A nation does not become a democracy
by writing on a bit of paper, "resolved that we are a democracy, with a
government consisting of executive, legislative, and judicial branches
chosen by majority vote."

Government, however organized, is what exists in the minds of the
people, and in that mind is stored up a dozen superstitions, handed down
from primitive days, gathering force from time to time as new names are
given to them and new "scientific" bases are found for them.

We laugh at the divine right of kings, but we could not accept
self-government without bestowing on it an element of divinity. We have
the divine right of Public Opinion. We can hardly print these words
without the reverence of capital letters. The founders of modern
democracy knew there could be no government without a miraculous
quality. Formerly one mere man by virtue of ruling became something
divine. The miracle grew difficult to swallow. You could regard this one
man and see that he was a fool and had too many mistresses. He was the
least divine-looking thing that could be imagined. Very well then, put
the divine quality into something remote. All men by virtue of ruling
themselves became divine.

An immense inertia develops between theoretical self-government and the
practical reluctance of humanity to be governed by anything short of the
heavenly hosts. I don't know whether this reluctance springs from racial
modesty, the feeling that man is not good enough to govern himself, or
from racial egotism, the belief that nothing is too good to govern him;
but it is a great reality. The little men at Washington are will-less in
the conflict.

To overcome this inertia, minorities whose interests cannot wait upon
the slow benevolent processes of determinism or upon the divine
rightness of public opinion, form to prod the constitutional organs of
government into action. Mr. Gray Silver, the silk smoother, and Mr.
Wayne B. Wheeler, the Puritan fanatic, are both just as much parts of
the government as is Mr. Harding. So, too, is every one of the hundred
and more lobbies which issue publicity at Washington. We recognize this
plurality of our institutions in our common speech. We refer habitually
to the "invisible government," to "government by business," to "party
government," to "government by public opinion." We have little but
inertia, except as outside pressure is applied to it.

The little men at Washington live in all this confusion of an
excessively plural government. They are pushed hither and yon by all
these forces, organized and unorganized, mental and physical, real and
imaginary, that inhibit and impel self-government. They lean heavily
upon parties only to find parties bending beneath their weight. They
yield to blocs and lobbies. They watch publicity and put out their own
publicity to counteract it.

Like the ministers of crowned fools, they gull the present embodiment of
divine right and cringe before it. They are everything but the effective
realization of a democratic will.

All this sounds as if I were getting far from my happy ending, and you
begin to see me asking the old question, "Is democracy a failure?" But
no, it is too soon to ask it. Wait a thousand years until democracy has
had a real chance. A revolution--no really optimistic prognosis can be
written which does not have the world revolution in it--a revolution
will have to take place in men's minds before this is a democracy.

I would absolve myself from the taboo of this word. Property is a grand
form of clothes. A property revolution, such as the Socialists
recommend, would be little more important in setting men's minds free
for self-government, than would putting women in trousers be in setting
women's minds free for the achievement of sex equality.

Some German--I think it was Spengler--writing about some "Niedergang," I
think it was of western civilization--all Germans like to write about
Niedergangs--demonstrated that every new civilization starts with a new
theory of the universe, of space and time. That is, it starts with a
real revolution.

Well, then, here is the true happy ending; Einstein is giving us a new
theory of the universe, knocking the mathematical props from under
infinity, teaching us that man largely fashions the world out of his own

Man again tends to become what the old Greek radical called him, "The
measure of all things." Once he is, and it will take a long time for him
to admit that he is, there may be a real chance for democracy and for
the emergence of great individuals, who are after all the best evidence
of civilization.

You see the happy ending is Einstein and not the farm bloc.

Meanwhile we have the farm bloc, one sign of vitality amid much
deadness, a reassertion of the principle which the Fathers of the
Constitution held, that there must be room for the play of minorities in
our political system.


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