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Title: The Americans
Author: Münsterberg, Hugo
Language: English
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                            HUGO MÜNSTERBERG

                        PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY
                         AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY

                             TRANSLATED BY

                          EDWIN B. HOLT, PH.D.



                                NEW YORK
                        McCLURE, PHILLIPS & CO.

                         _Copyright, 1904, by_

                        McCLURE, PHILLIPS & CO.

                     _Published November, 1904, N_



In the Preface to my “American Traits,” in which I defended German
ideals and criticised some American tendencies, I said, some years ago:
“It has been often questioned whether I am right in fighting merely
against American shortcomings from a German point of view, and in trying
to destroy prejudices on this side of the water; whether it is not, in a
still higher degree, my duty to attempt the same for the other side;—for
German prejudices concerning the United States are certainly not less
severe, and the points in which Germany might learn from American
culture not less numerous. The question is fair, and I shall soon put
before the German public a book on American life—a book which deals in a
detailed way with the political, economic, intellectual, and social
aspects of American culture. Its purpose is to interpret systematically
the democratic ideals of America.”

Here is the book; it fulfils the promise, and it might appear that no
further explanation is needed. And yet, in sending a book into the
world, I have never felt more strongly the need of prefatory
excuses—excuses not for writing the book, but for agreeing to its
translation into English.

To outline American life for readers beyond the sea is one thing; to
appear before an American audience and to tell them solemnly that there
is a Republican and a Democratic party, and that there are troubles
between capital and labour, is quite another thing. To inform my German
countrymen about America may be to fill a long-felt want; but, as a
German, to inform the Americans on matters which they knew before they
were born seems, indeed, worse than superfluous.

When I was urged, on so many sides, to bring my “Americans” before the
Americans, it was, therefore, clear to me from the outset that I ought
not to do it myself under any circumstances. If I had translated the
book myself, it would have become simply an English book, written in
English by the author; and yet its only possible right to existence must
lie in its reflected character, in its having been written for others,
in its coming back to the New World from the Old. My friend, Dr. Holt,
who has been for years my assistant in the Harvard Psychological
Laboratory, has assisted, therefore, in this social psychological
experiment, and translated the book from the German edition.

I have been still more influenced by another consideration. If the book
were chiefly a record of facts, it would be folly for a foreigner to
present it to the citizens; but the aim of the book is a quite different
one. To make a real scientific study of the facts, I should have felt
utterly incompetent; indeed, it may be doubted whether any one could
hope to master the material of the various fields: a division of labour
would then become necessary. The historian, the politician, the
economist, the jurist, the engineer, and many others would have to
co-operate in a scholarly investigation of American events; and I have
no right to any of these titles. I am merely a psychologist, and have
not set out to discover new material. The only aim of the book is to
study the American man and his inner tendencies; and, perhaps, a truer
name for my book would have been “The Philosophy of Americanism.” For
such a task the outsider may be, after all, not quite unsuited, since
the characteristic forces make themselves more easily felt by him than
by those who have breathed the atmosphere from their childhood. I am,
therefore, anxious to insist that the accent of the book lies on the
four chapters, “Spirit of Self-Direction”, “Spirit of Self-Realization,”
“Spirit of Self-Perfection,” and “Spirit of Self-Assertion”; while those
chapters on the economic and political problems are the least important
of the book, as they are meant merely by way of illustration. The
lasting forces and tendencies of American life are my topics, and not
the problems of the day. For this reason the book is translated as it
appeared six months ago in Germany, and the events and statistical
figures of the last few months have not been added; the Philosophy of
Americanism is independent of the happenings of yesterday. The only
changes in the translation are abbreviations; for instance, the
industrial tables, which every American can get easily from the
government reports, are abridged; and, above all, the chapters which
deal with the German-Americans are left out, as better remaining an
esoteric discussion for the Germans.

The purpose of finding the deeper impulses in American life necessarily
demands a certain ignoring of the shortcomings of the hour. If we aim to
work out and to make clear the essentials of the American mission in the
world, we cannot take the attitude of the reformer, whose attention
belongs, first of all, to the blunders and frailties of the hour; they
are to us less important by-products. The grumbler in public life sees
in such a view of the American, of course, merely a fancy picture of an
imaginary creature; he is not aware that every portrayal involves
abstraction, and that a study in Americanism means, indeed, a study of
the Americans as the best of them are, and as the others should wish to

But the optimism of my book has still another source. Its outspoken
purpose has been to awaken a better understanding of Americans in the
German nation. Whoever fights against prejudices can serve the truth
merely in emphasizing the neglected good sides, and in somewhat
retouching in the picture the exaggerated shadows. But just here arises
my strong reluctance. The optimism and the style of a defender were
sincere, and necessary to the book when it addressed itself to the
Germans; is it necessary, is it, indeed, sincere, to place such a eulogy
of Americanism before the Americans? I know too well that, besides the
self-direction, self-realization, self-perfection, and self-assertion
there is, more vivid still, the spirit of self-satisfaction, whose story
I have forgotten to include in this volume. Have I the right to cater to
this spirit?

But is it not best that the moods of criticism and optimism alternate?
The critical eagerness of the reformer which attacks the faults and
follies of the day is most necessary; but it turns into discouraging
pessimism if it is not supplemented by a profession of faith in the
lasting principles and deeper tendencies. The rôle of the critic I have
played, perhaps, more often and more vehemently than is the foreigner’s
right. My book on “American Traits” has been its sharpest expression.
Does that not give me, after all, a moral right to supplement the
warning cry by a joyful word on the high aims of true Americanism? My
duty is only to emphasize that I am myself fully aware of the strong
one-sidedness, and that this new book is not in the least meant to
retract the criticisms of my “American Traits.” The two books are meant
to be like the two pictures of a stereoscope, which must be seen both
together to get the full plastic effect of reality. It is certainly
important to remind the nation frequently that there are political
corruption and pedagogical blundering in the world; but sometimes it is
also worth while to say that Americanism is something noble and
inspiring, even for the outsiders, with whom naturally other impulses
are stronger—in fact, to make clear that this Americanism is a
consistent system of tendencies is ultimately, perhaps, only another way
of attaining the reformer’s end.

Only one word more—a word of thanks. I said the aim of the book was to
bring the facts of American life under the point of view of general
principles, but not to embody an original research in American history
and institutions. I have had thus to accept the facts ready-made, as the
best American authors present them; and I am thus their debtor
everywhere. Since the book is popular in its style, I have no foot-notes
and scholarly quotations, and so cannot enumerate the thousand American
sources from which I have taken my material. And I am not speaking here
merely of the great standard books and specialistic writings, but even
the daily and weekly papers, and especially the leading monthly
magazines, have helped to fill my note-books. My thanks are due to all
these silent helpers, and I am glad to share with them the welcome
which, in competent quarters, the German edition of the book has found.

                                                        HUGO MÜNSTERBERG

     October 25, 1904




       1. THE SPIRIT OF SELF-DIRECTION                                 3

       2. POLITICAL PARTIES                                           35

       3. THE PRESIDENT                                               63

       4. CONGRESS                                                    85

       5. JUSTICE                                                    101

       6. CITY AND STATE                                             115

       7. PUBLIC OPINION                                             137

       8. PROBLEMS OF POPULATION                                     155

       9. INTERNAL POLITICAL PROBLEMS                                185

      10. EXTERNAL POLITICAL PROBLEMS                                201


      11. THE SPIRIT OF SELF-INITIATIVE                              229

      12. THE ECONOMIC RISE                                          255

      13. THE ECONOMIC PROBLEMS                                      278

               The Silver Question                                   279

               The Tariff Question                                   289

               The Trust Question                                    301

               The Labour Question                                   318


      14. THE SPIRIT OF SELF-PERFECTION                              347

      15. THE SCHOOLS AND POPULAR EDUCATION                          365

      16. THE UNIVERSITIES                                           393

      17. SCIENCE                                                    425

      18. LITERATURE                                                 449

      19. ART                                                        473

      20. RELIGION                                                   496


      21. THE SPIRIT OF SELF-ASSERTION                               531

      22. THE SELF-ASSERTION OF WOMEN                                558

      23. ARISTOCRATIC TENDENCIES                                    590


                              CHAPTER ONE
                     _The Spirit of Self-Direction_

Whosoever wishes to describe the political life of the American people
can accomplish this end from a number of starting points. Perhaps he
would begin most naturally with the Articles of the Constitution and
expound the document which has given to the American body-politic its
remarkable and permanent form; or he might ramble through history and
trace out from petty colonies the rise of a great world-power; or he
might make his way through that multitude of events which to-day arouse
the keenest public interest, the party strifes and presidential
elections, the burdens and amenities of city and state, the transactions
of the courts and of Congress. Yet all this would be but a superficial
delineation. Whoever wishes to understand the secret of that baffling
turmoil, the inner mechanism and motive behind all the politically
effective forces, must set out from only one point. He must appreciate
the yearning of the American heart after self-direction. Everything else
is to be understood from this.

In his social life the American is very ready to conform to the will of
another. With an inborn good-nature, and often too willingly, perhaps,
he lends himself to social situations which are otherwise inconvenient.
Thus his guest, for instance, is apt to feel like a master in his house,
so completely is his own will subordinated to that of the guest. But, on
the other hand, in the sphere of public life, the individual, or a more
or less restricted group of individuals, feels that it must guide its
own activities to the last detail if these are to have for it any value
or significance whatsoever. He will allow no alien motive to be
substituted—neither the self-renunciation of fidelity or gratitude, nor
the æsthetic self-forgetfulness of hero-worship, nor even the
recognition that a material advantage would accrue or some desirable end
be more readily achieved if the control and responsibility were to be
vested in some one else. This self-direction is neither arbitrary nor
perverse; least of all does it indicate a love of ease or aversion to
toil. In Russia, as a well-known American once said, serfdom could be
wiped out by a stroke of the Czar’s pen, and millions of Russians would
be freed from slavery with no loss of life or property. “We Americans
had to offer up a half-million lives and many millions’ worth of
property in order to free our slaves. And yet nothing else was to be
thought of. We had to overcome that evil by our own initiative, and by
our own exertions reach our goal. And just because we are Americans and
not Russians no power on earth could have relieved us of our

When in any people the desire of self-direction dominates all other
motives, the form of government of that people is necessarily
republican. But it does not conversely follow that every republic is
grounded in this spirit of self-direction. Hence it is that the republic
of the United States is so entirely different from all other republics,
since in no other people is the craving for self-determination so
completely the informing force. The republics of Middle and South
America, or of France, have sprung from an entirely different political
spirit; while those newer republics, which in fundamental intention are
perhaps more similar, as for instance Switzerland, are still not
comparable because of their diminutive size. The French republic is
founded on rationalism. The philosophy of the eighteenth century, with
its destructive criticism of the existing order, furnished the
doctrines, and from that seed of knowledge there grew and still are
growing the practical ideals of France. But the political life of the
United States sprang not from reasoned motives but from ideals; it is
not the result of insight but of will; it has not a logical but a moral
foundation. And while in France the principles embodied in the
constitution are derived from theory, the somewhat doubtful doctrines
enunciated in the Declaration of Independence are merely a corollary to
that system of moral ideals which is indissolubly combined with the
American character.

It is not here to be questioned whether this character is purely the
cause and not also the effect of the American system; but so much is
sure, that the system of political relations which has sprung from these
ethical ideals constitutes the actual body-politic of America. Such is
the America which receives the immigrant and so thoroughly transforms
him that the demand for self-determination becomes the profoundest
passion of his soul. Such is the America toward which he feels a proud
and earnest patriotism. For the soil on which his kingdom has been
reared he knows but scanty sentiment or love; indeed, the early progress
of America was always an extension of the frontier, an unremitting
pushing forth over new domain. The American may be linked by personal
ties to a particular plot of land, but his national patriotism is
independent of the soil. It is also independent of the people. A nation
which in every decade has assimilated millions of aliens, and whose
historic past everywhere leads back to strange peoples, cannot with its
racial variegation inspire a profound feeling of indissoluble unity. And
yet that feeling is present here as it is perhaps in no European
country. American patriotism is directed neither to soil nor citizen,
but to a system of ideas respecting society which is compacted by the
desire for self-direction. And to be an American means to be a partizan
of this system. Neither race nor tradition, nor yet the actual past
binds him to his countryman, but rather the future which together they
are building. It is a community of purpose, and it is more effective
than any tradition, because it pervades the whole man. Participation in
a common task holds the people together, a task with no definite and
tangible end nor yet any special victory or triumph to look forward to,
but rather a task which is fulfilled at each moment, which has its
meaning not in any result but in the doing, its accomplishment not in
any event which may befall, but only in the rightness of the motive. To
be an American means to co-operate in perpetuating the spirit of
self-direction throughout the body-politic; and whosoever does not feel
this duty and actively respond to it, although perhaps a naturalized
citizen of the land, remains an alien forever.

If the newcomer is readily assimilated in such a society, commonly, yet
it must not be overlooked that those who come from across the seas are
not selected at random. Those who are strong of will are the ones who
seek out new spheres of activity. Just those whose satisfaction in life
has been stunted by a petty and oppressive environment have always
cherished a longing for the New World. That conflict which every one
must wage in his own bosom before he can finally tear himself away from
home, has schooled the emigrant for the spirit of his new home; and only
those who have been impelled by the desire for self-direction have had
the strength to break the ties with their own past. Thus it is that
those of Germanic extraction adapt themselves so much more quickly and
thoroughly to the political spirit of America than those of Romanic
blood. The Latin peoples are much more the victims of suggestion. Being
more excitable, they are more imitative, and therefore as individuals
less stable. The Frenchman, Italian, or Spaniard is often a sympathetic
member of the social life of the country, but in its political life he
introduces a certain false note; his republicanism is not the American
republicanism. As a moral ideal he has little or no concern with the
doctrine of self-direction.

The American political system, therefore, by no means represents an
ideal of universal significance; it is the expression of a certain
character, the necessary way of living for that distinct type of man
which an historically traceable process of selection has brought
together. And this way of living reacts in its turn to strengthen the
fundamental type. Other nations, in whom other temperamental factors no
less significant or potent or admirable are the fundamental traits, must
find the solution of their political problems in other directions. No
gain would accrue to them from any mere imitation, since it would tend
to nothing but the crippling and estranging of the native genius of
their people.

The cultivated American of to-day feels this instinctively. Among the
masses, to be sure, the old theme is still sometimes broached of the
world-wide supremacy of American ideals: and a part of the necessary
paraphernalia of popular assemblages will naturally consist in a
reaffirmation that the duty of America is to extend its political system
into every quarter of the globe; other nations will thus be rated
according to their ripeness for this system, and the history of the
world appear one long and happy education of the human race up to the
plane of American conceptions. But this tendency is inevitable and not
to be despised. It must more nearly concern the American than the
citizen of other states to propagate his ideals, since here everything
depends on each individual co-operating with all his might, and this
co-operation must succeed best when it is impelled by an uncritical and
blindly devoted faith. And such a faith arouses, too, a zealous
missionary spirit, which wants to carry this inspired state-craft unto
all political heathen. But the foreigner is apt to overestimate these
sentiments. The cultivated American is well aware that the various
political institutions of other nations are not to be gauged simply as
good or bad, and that the American system would be as impossible for
Germany as the German system for America.

Those days are indeed remote when philosophy tried to discover one
intrinsically best form of government. It is true that in the conflicts
of diverse nations the old opposition of realistic and idealistic, of
democratic and aristocratic social forces is repeated over and over. But
new problems are always coming up. The ancient opposition is
neutralized, and the problem finds its practical solution in that the
opposing forces deploy their skirmish lines in other territory. The
political ideas which led to the French Revolution had been outlived by
the middle of the nineteenth century. A compromise had been effected.
The whole stress of the conflict had transferred itself to social
problems, and no one earnestly discussed any more whether republic or
monarchy was the better form of government. The intellectual make-up of
a people and its history must decide what shall be the outward form of
its political institutions. And it is to-day tacitly admitted that there
are light and shade on either side.

The darker side of democracy, indeed, as of every system which is
founded on complete individualism, can be hidden from no one; nor would
any one be so foolish, even though he loved and admired America, as to
deny that weaknesses and dangers, and evils both secret and public, do
there abound. Those who base their judgments less on knowledge of
democratic forces than on obvious and somewhat sentimental social
prejudices are apt to look for the dangers in the wrong direction. A
German naturally thinks of mob-rule, harangues of the demagogue, and
every form of lawlessness and violence. But true democracy does not
allow of such things. A people that allows itself to turn into a mob and
to be guided by irresponsible leaders, is not capable of directing
itself. Self-direction demands the education of the nation. And nowhere
else in the world is the mere demagogue so powerless, and nowhere does
the populace observe more exemplary order and self-discipline.

The essential weakness of such a democracy is rather the importance it
assigns to the average man with his petty opinions, which are sometimes
right and sometimes wrong, his total lack of comprehension for all that
is great and exceptional, his self-satisfied dilettanteism and his
complacency before the accredited and trite in thought. This is far less
true of a republic like the French, with its genius for scepticism, a
republic nourished in æsthetic traditions and founded on the ruins of an
empire. The intellectual conditions are there quite different. But in an
ethical democracy, where self-direction is a serious issue, domination
by the average intelligence is inevitable; and those who are truly great
are the ones who find no scope for their powers. Those who appear great
are merely men who are exploiting to the utmost the tendencies of the
day. There are no great distinctions or premiums for truly high
achievements which do not immediately concern the average man, and
therefore the best energies of the nation are not spurred on to their
keenest activity. All ambition is directed necessarily toward such
achievements as the common man can understand and compete for—athletic
virtuosity and wealth. Therefore the spirit of sport and of
money-getting concerns the people more nearly than art or science, and
even in politics the domination of the majority easily crowds from the
arena those whose qualifications do not appeal to its mediocre taste.
And by as much as mature and capable minds withdraw from political life,
by so much are the well-intentioned masses more easily led astray by
sharp and self-interested politicians and politics made to cater to mean
instincts. In short, the danger is not from any wild lawlessness, but
from a crass philistinism. The seditious demagogue who appeals to
passion is less dangerous than the sly political wire-puller who
exploits the indolence and indifference of the people; and evil intent
is less to be feared than dilettanteism and the intellectual limitations
of the general public.

But, on the other hand, it is also certain that when it comes to a
critical comparison between the weaknesses and theoretical dangers of
democracy and aristocracy, the American is at no loss to serve up a
handsome list of shortcomings to the other side. He has observed and,
perhaps overestimating, he detests the spirit of caste, the existence of
those restrictions which wrongfully hamper one individual and as
undeservedly advantage another. Again, the American hates bureaucracy
and he hates militarism. The idea of highest authority being vested in a
man for any other reason than that of his individual qualifications goes
against all his convictions; and his moral feeling knows no more
detestable breed of man than the incompetent aspirant who is servile
with his superiors and brutal to his inferiors. It is typically
un-American. And if, in contrast to this, one tries to do justice to the
proved advantages of monarchy, of aristocracy and the spirit of caste,
to justify the ruler who stands above the strife of parties, and to
defend that system of symbols by which the sentiment of the past is
perpetuated in a people, and the protection which is instituted for all
the more ideal undertakings which surpass the comprehension of the
masses, or if one urges the value of that high efficiency which can
arise only from compact political organization—then the American citizen
swells with contempt. What does he care for all that if he loses the
inestimable and infinite advantage which lies in the fact that in his
state every individual takes an active hand, assumes responsibility, and
fights for his own ideals? What outward brilliancy of achievement would
compensate him for that moral value of co-operation, initiative,
self-discipline, and responsibility, which the poorest and meanest
citizen enjoys? It may be that an enlightened and well-meaning monarch
sees to it that the least peasant can sit down to his chicken of a
Sunday; but God raised up the United States as an example to all
nations, that it shall be the privilege of every man to feel himself
responsible for his town, county, state, and country, and even for all
mankind, and by his own free initiative to work to better them. The
strife of parties would better be, than that a single man should be dead
to the welfare of his country; and it is good riddance to aristocracy
and plenty, if a single man is to be prevented from emulating freely the
highest that he knows or anywise detained from his utmost

All such speculative estimates of different constitutional forms lead to
no result unless they take into account the facts of history. Every side
has its good and evil. And all such discussions are the less productive
in that superiorities of constitution, although soundly argued, may or
may not in any given country be fully made use of, while on the other
hand defects of constitution are very often obviated. Indeed, to take an
example from present tendencies in America, nothing is more
characteristic than the aristocratic by-currents through which so many
dangers of democracy are avoided. Officially, of course, a republic must
remain a democracy, otherwise it mines its own foundations, and yet we
shall see that American social and political life have developed by no
means along parallel lines but rather stand out often in sharp contrast.
The same is true of Germany. Official Germany is aristocratic and
monarchic through and through, and no one would wish it other; but the
intimate life of Germany becomes every day more democratic, and thus the
natural weaknesses of an aristocracy are checked by irresistible social
counter-tendencies. It may have been the growing wealth of Germany which
raised the plane of life of the middle classes; or the industrial
advance which loaned greater importance to manufacturer and merchant,
and took some social gloss from the office-holding class; it may have
been the colonial expansion which broadened the horizon and upset a
stagnant equilibrium of stale opinion; or, again, the renewed efforts of
those who felt cramped and oppressed, the labourers, and, above all, the
women; it does not matter how it arose—a wave of progress is sweeping
over that country, and a political aristocracy is being infused with
new, democratic blood.

Now in America, as will often appear later, the days are over in which
all aristocratic tendencies were strictly held back. The influence of
intellectual leaders is increasing, art, science, and the ideals of the
upper classes are continually pushing to the front, and even social
lines and stratifications are beginning more and more to be felt. The
soul of the people is agitated by imperialistic and military sentiments,
and whereas in former times it was bent on freeing the slaves it now
discovers “the white man’s burden” to lie in the subjugation of inferior
races. The restrictions to immigration are constantly being increased.
Now of course all this does not a whit prejudice the formal political
democracy of the land; it is simply a quiet, aristocratic complement to
the inner workings of the constitution.

The presence, and even the bare possibility, here, of such by-currents,
brings out more clearly how hopeless the theoretical estimation of any
isolated form of statehood is, if it neglects the factors introduced by
the actual life of the people. The American democracy is not an
abstractly superior system of which a European can approve only by
becoming himself a republican and condemning, incidentally, his own form
of government: it is rather, merely, the necessary form of government
for the types of men and the conditions which are found here. And any
educated American of to-day fully realizes this. No theoretical
hair-splitting will solve the problem as to what is best for one or
another country; for that true historical insight is needed. And even
when the histories of two peoples are so utterly dissimilar as are those
of America and Germany, it by no means follows, as the social
by-currents just mentioned show, that the real spirit of the peoples
must be unlike. Democratic America, with its unofficial aristocratic
leanings, has, in fact, a surprising kinship to monarchical Germany,
with its inner workings of a true democracy. The two peoples are growing
into strong resemblance, although their respective constitutions
flourish and take deeper root.

The beginnings of American history showed unmistakably and imperatively
that the government of the American people must be, in the words of
Lincoln, “a government of the people, by the people, and for the
people.” No one dreamed when the Constitution of the United States was
framed, some hundred and seventeen years ago, that this democratic
instrument would ever be called on to bind together a mighty nation
extending from Maine to California. And, indeed, such a territorial
expansion would undoubtedly have stretched and burst the unifying bonds
of this Constitution, if the distance between Boston and San Francisco
had not meanwhile become practically shorter than the road from Boston
to Washington was in those early days. But that this Constitution could
so adapt itself to the undreamt broadening of conditions, that it could
continue to be the mainstay of a people that was indefinitely extending
itself by exchange and purchase, conquest and treaty, and that in no
crisis has an individual or party succeeded in any tampering with the
rights of the people; all this shows convincingly that the American form
of state was not arbitrarily hit on, but that it was the outcome of an
historical development.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The spirit of this commonwealth was not first conceived in the year
1787. It was strong and ripe long before the delegates from the Thirteen
States assembled under Washington’s leadership in Independence Hall at
Philadelphia. The history of the English colonists to the Atlantic coast
shows from the very first what weight they attached to the duties and
rights of the individual, and foretells as well the inevitable result,
their unloosing from the mother country and final declaration of their

We may consider the different lines of development which began early in
the seventeenth century, after the feeble attempts at colonization from
England, France and Spain in the latter half of the sixteenth century
had miscarried and left socially no traces. French settlements
flourished as early as 1605, chiefly however in Nova Scotia and other
parts of Canada, and in 1609 settlements of Dutch, whose colony on the
Hudson River, the present New York, soon passed over into English hands.
The development of the Spanish colonies on the Gulf of Mexico went on
outside the territory of these young United States; and so the story of
the meagre years of America is comprised in the history of the English
colonies alone.

These colonies began diversely but came to resemble one another more and
more as time went on. There can be no greater contrast than between the
pioneer life of stout-willed men, who have left their native soil in
order to live in undisturbed enjoyment of their Puritan faith, seeking
to found their little communities on simple forms of self-government,
and on the other hand the occupation of a rich trading company under
royal charter, or the inauguration of a colony of the crown. But these
differences could not be preserved. The tiny independent communities, as
they grew in consideration, felt the need of some protecting power and
therefore they looked once more to England; while, on the other hand,
the more powerful, chartered colonies tended to loose themselves from
the mother country, feeling, as they soon did, that their interests
could not be well administered from across a broad ocean. In spite of
the protecting arm of England, they felt it to be a condition of their
sound growth that they should manage their domestic affairs for
themselves. Thus it happened that all the colonies alike were externally
dependent on England, while internally they were independent and were
being schooled in citizenship.

The desire for self-government as a factor in the transformations which
went on can very easily be traced; but it would be harder to say how far
utilitarian and how far moral factors entered in. Virginia took the
first step. Its first settlement of 1606 was completely subject to the
king, who granted homesteads but no political rights to the colonists.
It was a lifeless undertaking until 1609, when its political status was
changed. The administration of the colony was entrusted to those who
were interested in its material success. It became a great business
undertaking which had everything in its favour. At the head was a London
company, which for a nominal sum had been allowed to purchase a strip of
land having four hundred miles of seacoast and extending inland
indefinitely. This land contained inestimable natural resources, but
needed labour to exploit them. The company then offered to grant homes
on very favourable terms to settlers, receiving in return either cash or
labour; and these inducements, together with the economic pressure felt
by the lower classes at home, brought about a rapid growth of the
colony. Now since this colony was organized like a military despotism,
whose ruler, however, was no less than three thousand miles away, the
interests of the company had to be represented by officials delegated to
live in the colony. The interests of these officials were of course
never those of the colonists, and presently, moreover, unscrupulous
officials commenced to misuse their power; so that as a result, while
the colony flourished, the company was on the brink of failure. The only
way out of this difficulty was to concede something to the colonists
themselves, and harmonize their interests with those of the company by
granting them the free direction of their own affairs. It was arranged
that every village or small city should be a political unit and as such
should send two delegates to a convention which sat to deliberate all
matters of common concern. This body met for the first time in 1619; and
in a short time it happened, as was to be expected, that the local
government felt itself to be stronger than the mercantile company back
in London. Disputes arose, and before five years the company had ceased
to exist, and Virginia became a royal province. But the fact remained
that in the year 1619 for the first time a deliberative body
representing the people had met on American soil. The first step toward
freedom had been taken. And with subtle irony fate decreed that in this
same year of grace a Dutch ship should land the first cargo of African
negroes in the same colony, as slaves.

That other form of political development, which started in the voluntary
compact of men who owned no other allegiance, was first exemplified in
the covenant of those hundred and two Puritans who landed from the
Mayflower at Plymouth, in the year 1620, having forsaken England in
order to enjoy religious freedom in the New World. A storm forced them
to land on Cape Cod, where they remained and amid the severest hardships
built up their little colony, which, as no other, has been a perpetual
spring of moral force. Even to-day the best men of the land derive their
strength from the moral courage and earnestness of life of the Pilgrims.
Before they landed they signed a compact, in which they declared that
they had made this voyage “for ye glory of God and advancement of ye
Christian faith, and honour of our King and countrie,” and that now in
the sight of God they would “combine ... togeather into a civil body
politik for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of ye
end aforesaid, and by vertue hearof to enacte, constitute and frame such
just and equal lawes, ordinances, actes, constitutions and offices from
time to time, as shall be thought most meete and convenient for ye
generall good of ye colonie.”

The executive was a governor and his assistants, elected annually from
the people: while the power to make laws remained with the body of male
communicants of the church. And so it remained for eighteen years, until
the growth of the colony made it hard for all church-members to meet
together, so that a simple system of popular representation by election
had to be introduced. This colony united later with a flourishing
trading settlement, which centred about Salem; and these together formed
the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which in 1640 numbered already twenty
thousand souls.

The covenant which was drawn up on board the Mayflower is to be
accounted the first voluntary federation of independent Americans for
the purposes of orderly government. The first written constitution was
drawn up in the colony of Connecticut, a colony which repeated
essentially the successful experiments of New Plymouth, and which
consisted of agricultural settlements and small posts for trading with
the Indians situated at Windsor and Hartford and other places along the
Connecticut Valley. Led by common interests, they adopted in 1638 a
formal constitution.

There was still a third important type of colonial government, which was
at first thoroughly aristocratic and English, and nevertheless became
quickly Americanized. It was the custom of the King to grant to
distinguished men, under provision of a small tribute, almost
monarchical rights over large tracts of land. The first such man was
Lord Baltimore, who received in 1632 a title to the domain of Maryland,
on the Chesapeake Bay. He enjoyed the most complete princely
prerogatives, and pledged to the crown in return about a fifth part of
the gold and silver mined in his province. In 1664 Charles the Second
gave to his brother, the Duke of York, a large territory, which was soon
broken up, and which included what are now known as the States of
Vermont, New Jersey, and Delaware. The great provinces of Georgia and
Carolina—now North and South Carolina—were awarded by the same King to
one of his admirals, Sir William Penn, for certain services. Penn died,
and his son, who found himself in need of the sixteen thousand pounds
which his father had loaned to the King, gratified that monarch by
accepting in their stead a stretch of coast lands extending between the
fortieth and forty-third degrees of latitude.

In this way extensive districts were turned over to the caprice of a few
noblemen; but immediately the spirit of self-direction took everywhere
root, and a social-political enthusiasm proceeded to shape the land
according to new ideals. Carolina took counsel of the philosopher,
Locke, in carrying out her experiment. Maryland, which was immediately
prospered with two hundred men of property and rank, chiefly of Roman
Catholic faith, started out with a general popular assembly, and soon
went over to the representative system. And Penn’s constructive
handiwork, the Quaker State of Pennsylvania, was intended from the first
to be “a consecrated experiment.” Penn himself explained that he should
take care so to arrange the politics of his colony that neither he
himself nor his successors should have an opportunity to do wrong.
Penn’s enthusiasm awoke response from the continent: he himself founded
the “city of brotherly love,” Philadelphia; and Franz Daniel Pastorius
brought over his colony of Mennonites, the first German settlers, who
took up their abode at Germantown.

Thus it was that the spirit of self-reliant and self-assertive
independence took root in the most various soils. But that which led the
colonies to unite was not their common sentiments and ambitions, but it
was their common enemies. In spite of the similarity of their positions
there was no lack of sharp contrasts. And perhaps the most striking of
these was the opposition between the southern colonies, with their
languid climate, where the planters left all the work to slaves, and the
middle and northern provinces, where the citizens found in work the
inspiration of their lives. The foes which bound together these diverse
elements were the Indians, the French, the Spanish, and lastly their
parent race, the English.

The Indian had been lord of the land until he was driven back by the
colonists to remoter hunting territory. The more warlike tribes tried
repeatedly to wipe out the white intruder, and constantly menaced the
isolated settlements, which were by no means a match for them. Soon
after the first serious conflict in 1636, the Pequot war, Rhode Island,
which was a small colony of scattered settlements, made overtures toward
a protective alliance with her stronger neighbours. In this she was
successful, and together with Massachusetts, Plymouth, New Haven, and
Connecticut, formed the United Colonies of New England. This union was
of little practical importance except as a first lesson to the colonies
to avoid petty jealousies and to consider a closer mutual alliance as a
possibility which would by no means impair the freedom and independence
of the uniting parties.

The wars with the French colonies had more serious consequences. The
French, who were the natural enemies of all English settlements, had
originally planted colonies only in the far north, in Quebec in 1608.
But during those decades in which the English wayfarers were making
homes for themselves along the Atlantic coast, the French were migrating
down from the north through the valley of the Saint Lawrence and along
the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River. Then they pressed on down this
stream to its mouth and laid title to the tremendous tracts which it
drains, in the name of the French crown. This country they called after
King Louis XIV, Louisiana. They had not come as colonists, but solely
with an eye to gain, hoping to exploit these untouched resources in
behalf of the Canadian fur traffic; and close on the heels of the trader
came the Catholic priest. Thus the territory that flanked the English
colonies to inland fell into French hands, whereas the land-grants of
the English crown so read that only the Pacific Ocean should be the
western boundary. A collision was therefore inevitable, although indeed
mountains and virgin forests separated the coastland settlements from
the inland regions of the Mississippi where the French had planted and
fortified their trading posts.

When, in 1689, war broke out in Europe between England and France, a
fierce struggle began between their representatives in the New World.
But it was not now as it had been in the Indian war, where only a couple
of colonies were involved. All the colonies along the coast were
threatened by a common enemy. A congress of delegates convened at New
York in April of 1690, in which for the first time all the colonies were
invited to take part. Three long wars followed. The greatest advantage
on the French side was that from the first they had been on good terms
with the Indians, whose aid they were now able to enlist. But the French
were numerically weak, and received but little assistance from their
mother country. When in 1766 the last great war broke out the English
colonies had a population of a million and a quarter, while the French
had only a tenth as many. Chiefly and finally, the English colonists
were actual settlers, hardened and matured through carrying the
responsibilities of their young state, and fighting for hearth and home;
the French were either traders or soldiers. The principle of free
government was destined on this continent to triumph. Washington, then a
young man, led the fight; the English Secretary of State, William Pitt,
did everything in his power to aid; and the victory was complete. By the
treaty of 1763 all French possessions east of the Mississippi were given
to England, with the exception of New Orleans, which, together with the
French possessions west of the Mississippi, went to Spain. Spain
meanwhile ceded Florida to England. Thus the entire continent was
divided between England and Spain.

But the Seven Years War had not merely altered the map of America; it
had been an instructive lesson to the colonists. They had learned that
their fortunes were one; that their own generals and soldiers were not
inferior to any which England could send over; and lastly, they had come
to see that England looked at the affairs of the colonies strictly from
the point of view of her own gain. Herewith was opened up a new prospect
for the future: the French no longer threatened and everything this side
of the Mississippi stood open to them and promised huge resources. What
need had they to depend further on the English throne? The spirit of
self-direction could now consistently come forward and dictate the last

It is true that the colonists were still faithful English subjects, and
in spite of their independent ambitions they took it for granted that
England would always direct their foreign policy, would have the right
to veto such laws as they passed, and that the English governors would
always be recognized as official authorities. But now the English
Parliament planned certain taxations that were the occasion of serious
dispute. The Thirteen Colonies, which in the meantime had grown to be a
population of two million, had by their considerable war expenditures
shown to the debt-encumbered Britons the thriving condition of colonial
trade. And the latter were soon ready with a plan to lay a part of the
public taxation on the Americans. It was not in itself unfair to demand
of the colonies some contribution to the public treasury, since many of
the expenditures were distinctly for their benefit; and yet it must have
seemed extraordinary to these men who had been forced from childhood to
shift for themselves, and who believed the doctrine of self-government
to be incontrovertible. They objected to paying taxes to a Parliament in
which they had no representation; and the phrase, “no taxation without
representation,” became the motto of the hour.

The Stamp Tax, which prescribed the use of revenue stamps on all
American documents and newspapers, was received with consternation, and
societies called the Sons of Freedom were formed throughout the land to
agitate against this innovation. The Stamp Tax Congress, which met in
New York in 1765, repudiated the law in outspoken terms. Nor did it halt
with a mere expression of opinion; the spirit of self-direction was not
to be molested with impunity. Close on the resolve not to observe the
law, came the further agreement to buy no English merchandise. England
had to waive the Stamp Tax, but endless mutterings and recriminations
followed which increased the bitterness. Both sides were ripe for war
when, in 1770, England issued a proclamation laying a tax on all tea
imported to the colonies. The citizens of Boston became enraged and
pitched an English ship-load of tea into the harbour. Thereupon England,
equally aroused, proceeded to punish Boston by passing measures designed
to ruin the commerce of Boston and indeed all Massachusetts. The
Thirteen Colonies took sides with Massachusetts and a storm became
imminent. The first battle was fought on the 19th of April, 1775; and on
July 4th, 1776, the Thirteen Colonies declared their independence of
England. Henceforth there were to be no colonies but in their place
thirteen free states.

The Declaration of Independence was composed by Jefferson, a Virginian,
and is a remarkable document. The spirit that informs it is found in the
following lines: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men
are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted
among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the
governed....” The sins of the English king and people against America
are enumerated at length, and in solemn language the United States of
America are declared independent of the English people, who are
henceforth to be as “the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace
friends.” This Declaration was signed by delegates from the states in
Independence Hall, in Philadelphia, where hung the famous bell, with its
inscription, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land, unto all the
inhabitants thereof.”

The spirit of self-direction had triumphed; but the dangers were by no
means wholly passed. England sent over no more governors, and had indeed
been repulsed; but she had as yet no intention of giving in. The war
dragged on for five long years, and the outcome was uncertain until in
1781 Cornwallis was brought to surrender. Then England knew that she had
lost the contest. The king desired still to prolong the war, but the
people were tired of it and, the ministry having finally to yield, peace
was declared in April of the year 1783. This was no assurance of an
harmonious future, however. That solidarity which the colonies had felt
in the face of a common enemy now gave way to petty jealousies and
oppositions, and the inner weakness of the new Union was revealed. In
itself the Union had no legal authority over the several states, and
while during the war the affairs of the country had fallen into
disorder, yet the Union had no power to conduct foreign diplomacy or
even to collect customs.

It was rather in their zeal for self-direction that at first
considerable portions of the population seemed disinclined to enlarge
the authority of the central organization. Self-direction begins with
the individual or some group of individuals. The true self-direction of
society as a whole was not to be allowed to encroach on the rights of
the individual, and this was the danger feared. Each state, with its
separate interests and powers, would not give up its autonomy in favour
of an impersonal central power which might easily come to tyrannize over
the single state in much the same way as the hated English throne had
done. And yet the best men of the country were brought at length more
and more to the opposite view; a strong central authority, in which the
states as a whole should become a larger self-directing unit, carrying
out and ensuring the self-direction of the component members, was seen
to be a necessity. Another congress of representatives from all the
states was convened in Independence Hall, at Philadelphia, and this body
of uncommonly able men sat for months deliberating ways by which the
opposing factions of federalism and anti-federalism could be brought
together in a satisfactory alliance. It was obvious that compromises
would have to be made. So, for instance, it was conceded that the
smallest state, like the largest, should be represented in the senate by
two delegates: and the single state enjoyed many other rights not usual
in a federation. But, on the other hand, it was equally certain that the
chief executive must be a single man with a firm will, and that this
office must be refilled at frequent intervals by a popular election. A
few had tentatively suggested making Washington king, but he stood firm
against any such plan. The republican form of government was in this
instance no shrewdly devised system which was adopted for the sake of
nicely spun theoretical advantages—it was the necessity of the time and
place, the natural culmination of a whole movement. It was as absolutely
necessary as the consolidation of the German states, eighty years later,
under an imperial crown. The congress eventually submitted a
constitutional project to the several state legislatures, for their
summary approval or rejection. Whereon the anti-federalistic factions
made a final effort, but were outvoted, and the Constitution was
adopted. In 1789 George Washington was elected the first president of
the United States.

It would take a lively partisan to assert, as one sometimes does, that
this Constitution is the greatest achievement of human intellect, and
yet the severest critics have acknowledged that a genius for
statesmanship is displayed in its text. Penned in an age which was given
over to bombastic declamation, this document lays down the fundamental
lines of the new government with great clearness and simplicity. “We,
the people of the United States,” it begins, “in order to form a more
perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide
for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the
blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and
establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” This is
the entire introduction. The contents come under seven articles. The
first article provides for the making of laws, this power to be vested
in a Congress consisting of a Senate and House of Representatives; for
the business and daily routine of this Congress, as well as its powers
and obligations. The second article provides for the executive power, to
be vested in the person of the President, who is elected every fourth
year; the third article provides for a judiciary; the fourth defines the
mutual relations of separate states; and the last three articles concern
the adoption of the Constitution and the conditions under which it may
be amended.

The need of amendments and extensions to this Constitution was foreseen
and provided for. How profoundly the original document comprehended and
expressed the genius of the American people may be seen from the fact
that during a century which saw an unexampled growth of the country and
an undreamed-of transformation of its foreign policy, not a single great
principle of the Constitution was modified. After seventy-seven years
one important paragraph was added, prohibiting slavery; and this change
was made at a tremendous cost of blood. Otherwise the few amendments
have been insignificant and concerned matters of expediency or else, and
more specially, further formulations of what, according to American
conceptions, are the rights of the individual. Although the original
Constitution did not contain a formal proclamation of religious freedom,
freedom of speech, of the press, and of public assemblage, this was not
because those who signed the document did not believe in these things,
but because they had not aimed to make of the Constitution of the Union
either a treatise on ethics or yet a book of law. But as early as 1789
the states insisted that all the rights of the individual, as endorsed
by the national ideals, should be incorporated in the articles of this
document. In the year 1870 one more tardy straggler was added to the
list of human rights, the last amendment; the right of the citizens to
vote was not to be abridged on account of race, colour, or previous
condition of servitude.

Of the other amendments, the tenth had been tacitly assumed from the
first year of the Republic; this was that “The powers not delegated to
the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the
States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” This
principle also was surely in no way at variance with the spirit of the
original document. It was, indeed, the lever that ensured the great
efficacy of the Constitution, so that by its provisions the centrifugal
forces were never disturbed by centripetal ones; an equilibrium was
effected between the tendencies that made for unity and those that made
against it, in such a way that the highest efficiency was ensured to the
whole while the fullest encouragement was given to the enterprise and
initiative of the parts. In no direction, probably, would an improvement
have been possible. More authority concentrated at the head would have
impeded general activity, and less would have lost the advantages of
concerted action; in neither case would material growth or the
reconciliation of conflicting opinions have been possible. Constant
compensation of old forces and the quickening of new ones were the
secret of this documented power, and yet it was only the complete
expression of the spirit of self-direction, which demands unremittingly
that the nation as a whole shall conduct itself without encroaching on
the freedom of the individual, and that the individual shall be free to
go his own ways without interfering with the unfettered policy of the

Under the auspices of this Constitution the country waxed and throve. As
early as 1803 its land area was doubled by the accession of Louisiana,
which had been ceded by Spain to France, and was now purchased from
Napoleon for fifteen million dollars—an event of such far-reaching
importance that the people of St. Louis have not inappropriately invited
the nations of the earth to participate in a Louisiana Purchase
Exposition. In 1845 Texas was taken into the Union, it having broken
away from Mexico just previously and constituted itself an independent
state. The large region on the Pacific slope known as Oregon came in
1846 to the United States by treaty with England, and when finally, in
1847, after the war with Mexico, New Mexico and California became the
spoils of the victor and in 1867 Russia relinquished Alaska, the domain
of the country was found to have grown from its original size of 324,000
square miles to one of 3,600,000. The thirteen states had become
forty-five, since the newly acquired lands had to be divided. But all
this growth brought no alteration in the Constitution, whose spirit of
self-direction, rather, had led to this magnificent development, had
fortified and secured the country, and inspired it with energy and
contentment. The population also has grown under this benevolent
Constitution. Millions have flocked hither to seek and to find
prosperity on this new and inexhaustible soil. The area has increased
tenfold, but the population twenty-fold; and the newcomers have been
disciplined in the school of self-direction and educated to the spirit
of American citizenship.

                  *       *       *       *       *

There is a certain kind of character which must be developed in this
school. It is true, of course, that there is no one model which just
fits every one, the native-born Yankee as well as the European
immigrant, the farmer as well as the resident in cities. The
Irish-American is not the German-American, nor is the New Englander like
the Virginian, nor the son of the East like his brother in the West. The
infinite shadings of personal character, temperament, and capacity which
nature has produced, have, of course, not been lost. And, nevertheless,
just as the human race in America has begun to differentiate into a
species which is anthropologically distinct, and this partly under the
influence of the climate since the species has several characters in
common with the aboriginal Indian, so also in the moral atmosphere of
this body-politic a distinct type of human character is undoubtedly
being evolved; and one may note with perpetual surprise how little the
other great divisions of social life, as of rich and poor, cultivated
and ignorant, native-born and immigrant, manual labourer and
brain-worker—how little these differentiate the American citizen in his
political capacity. Of course only the political life is in question
here; that new groupings and divisions are being continually formed in
the economic, intellectual, and social life need not concern us for the
present. In the individual it may not be easy to follow the threads
through the tissue of his psychic motions, but in the abstract and
schematic picture of the type it is by no means impossible to trace them

What is it, then, which the American has gotten from his training? Many
and apparently unrelated lessons are taught in the school of
self-direction, and perhaps none of them are without their dangers. For
it is here not a matter of theoretical knowledge, which may be
remembered or forgotten and may be well or ill selected, but which in
itself involves no scale of excellence and, therefore, has no need to be
tempered or restrained. Theoretical knowledge cannot be overdone or
exaggerated into untruth. But the practical conduct which is here in
question is different; it involves an ideal, and in such a way that a
man may not only misapprehend or forget what is the best course of
action, but also he may err in following it, he may give it undue place
and so neglect opposing motives which in their place are no less
requisite. In short, conduct, unlike knowledge, demands a fine tact and
unflagging discernment for the fitness of things. In this sense it
cannot be denied that the teaching of American democracy is itself the
source of serious errors, and that the typical American citizen is by no
means free from the failings of his virtues. His fundamental traits may
be briefly sketched, and from the excellencies which he strives for many
of his defects can be understood.

There is, firstly, a group of closely related impulses, which springs
from the American’s unbounded belief in his own strength, a trait which
in the last analysis must be, of course, the foundation-stone of any
doctrine of self-direction. He will not wait for others to look out for
him, counsel him, or take cognizance of his interests, but relies wholly
on his own judgment and his own strength, and believes no goal too high
for his exertions to attain. Every true American will have found in
himself some trace of this spirit. Each day of his life has suggested it
to him, and all the institutions of his country have reinforced the
teaching. Its most immediate result is such a strength of initiative as
no other people on earth possesses, an optimism, a self-reliance and
feeling of security which contribute more than half to his success.
Faint heart is not in the American’s dictionary. Individual,
corporation, or country may be undecided, and dispute whether a certain
end is desirable or whether a certain means is best to a given end, but
no one ever doubts or goes into his work with misgivings lest his
strength be not enough to traverse the road and reach the goal. And such
an attitude encourages every man to exert himself to the utmost. The
spirit of self-direction is here closely allied with that
self-initiative which is the mainspring of the economic life of America.
But the initiative and optimistic resolution shown in the political
arena astonish the stranger more than the same traits displayed in the
economic field. It is shown in the readiness for argument, in which
every one can express himself accurately and effectively; in the
indefatigable demand that every public office shall be open to the
humblest incumbent, and in the cool assurance with which thousands and
thousands of persons, without any technical knowledge or professional
training, assume the most exacting political offices, and become
postmasters, mayors, ministers and ambassadors, without even pausing
before their grave responsibilities. But most of all, American
initiative is shown in the structure of all her institutions, great or
small, which minimizes transitions and degrees between higher and lower,
and so facilitates the steady advance of the individual. Each and all
must have the chance to unfold and there must be no obstacles to hinder
the right ambition from its utmost realization. Every impulse must be
utilized; and however far toward the periphery a man may be born he must
have the right of pressing forward to the centre. The strength of this
nation lies at the periphery, and the American government would never
have advanced so unerringly from success to success if every village
stable-lad and city messenger-boy had not known with pride that it
depends only on himself if he is not to become President of the United

But the transition is easy and not well marked from such strength to a
deplorable weakness. The spirit of initiative and optimism is in danger
of becoming inexcusable arrogance as to one’s abilities and sad
underestimation of the value of professional training. Dilettanteism is
generally well-meaning, often successful, and sometimes wholly
admirable; but it is always dangerous. When brawny young factory-hands
sit on a school committee, sturdy tradesmen assume direction of a
municipal postal service, bankers become speakers in legislature, and
journalists shift over to be cabinet ministers, the general citizen may
sometimes find cold comfort in knowing that the public service is not
roped off from private life, nor like to become effete through stale
traditions. It is very evident that America is to-day making a great
effort to ward off the evils of amateurish incompetence and give more
prominence to the man of special training. And yet it cannot be denied
that very noticeably in the intellectual make-up of the American his
free initiative and easy optimism are combined with a readiness to
overestimate his own powers and with a bias for dilettanteism.

Another psychological outcome of this individualism seems inevitable.
When every member of a nation feels called on to pass judgment on all
subjects for himself, it will come about that public opinion reaches an
uncommonly high mean level, but it will also happen that the greatest
intellects are not recognized as being above this mean. The genius, who
in his day is always incomprehensible to the masses, goes to waste; and
the man who sees beyond the vulgar horizon fights an uphill battle. The
glittering successes are for the man whose doings impress the multitude,
and this fact is necessarily reflected in the mind of the aspirant, who
unconsciously shapes his ambitions to the taste of the many rather than
of the best. Wherever the spirit of initiative possesses all alike, a
truly great individual is of course insufferable; any great advance must
be a collective movement, and the best energies of the country must be
futilely expended in budging the masses. It is no accident that America
has still produced no great world genius. And this is the other side of
the vaunted and truthful assertion, that whenever in a New England town
a question is brought to an open debate, the number of those who will
take a lively, earnest, orderly, and intelligent part in the discussion
is perhaps greater in proportion to the total number of inhabitants than
in any place in Europe.

This leads us to a second consequence of the desire for self-direction.
It stimulates not only initiative and self-reliance, but also the
consciousness of duty. If a man earnestly believes that the subject must
also be potentate, he will not try to put off his responsibilities on
any one else but will forthwith set himself to work, and prescribe as
well his own due restrictions. If a neighbourhood or club, town, city,
or state, or yet the whole federation sees before it some duty, the
American will not be found waiting for a higher authority to stir him
up, for he is himself that authority; his vote it is which determines
all who are to figure in the affair. Wherefore he is constrained by the
whole system to an earnest and untiring co-operation in everything. This
is not the superficial politics of the ale-house, with its irresponsible
bandying of yeas and nays. When Secretary of the Navy under McKinley,
Mr. Long said that when the cabinet at Washington was in conference,
every member was of course better posted on the matter than the average
citizen; but that nevertheless a dozen villagers, say in northern Maine,
would read their New York and Boston papers and talk over the affairs
with as much intelligence and as good a comprehension of the points at
issue as would appear at any cabinet debates. This was by no means meant
as a reflection on his colleagues of the cabinet, but as a frank
recognition of an aspect of American life which invariably surprises the
foreigner. One needs only to recall the discussion which preceded the
last presidential election, and more especially the one preceding that;
the silver question was the great issue, and evening after evening
hundreds of thousands listened to technical arguments in finance such as
no European orator could hope to lay before a popular assembly. Huge
audiences followed with rapt attention for hours lectures on the most
difficult points of international monetary standards. And this
intellectual seriousness springs from the feeling of personal
responsibility which is everywhere present. The European is always
astonished at the exemplary demeanour of an American crowd; how on
public occasions great multitudes of men and women regulate their
movements without any noticeable interference by the police, how the
great transportation companies operate with almost no surveillance of
the public, trusting each person to do his part, and how in general the
whole social structure is based on mutual confidence to a degree which
is nowhere the case in Europe. The feeling that the ruler and the ruled
are one pervades all activities, and its consequences are felt far
beyond the political realm. Especially in the social sphere it makes for
self-respect among the lower classes; they adapt themselves readily to
discipline, for at the same time they feel themselves to be the masters;
and the dignity of their position is the best security for their good

But here, too, excellence has its defects. Where every one is so
intensely aware of an identity between political authority and political
subject, it is hard for the feeling of respect for any person whatsoever
to find root. The feeling of equality will crop out where nature
designed none, as for instance between youth and mature years. A certain
lack of respect appears in the family and goes unpunished because
superficially it corresponds to the political system of the land.
Parents even make it a principle to implore and persuade their children,
holding it to be a mistake to compel or punish them; and they believe
that the schools should be conducted in the same spirit. And thus young
men and women grow up without experiencing the advantages of outer
constraint or discipline.

Hitherto we have considered only those intellectual factors derived from
the spirit of self-direction which bear on the will of the individual,
his rights and duties; but these factors are closely bound up with the
others which concern the rights and privileges of one’s neighbour. We
may sketch these briefly. Deeply as he feels his own rights, the
American is not less conscious of those of his neighbour. He does not
forget that his neighbour may not be molested and must have every
opportunity for development and the pursuit of his ambitions, and this
without scrutiny or supervision. He recognizes the other’s equal voice
and influence in public affairs, his equally sincere sense of duty and
fidelity to it. This altruism expresses itself variously in practical
life. Firstly, in a complete subordination to the majority. In America
the dissenting minority displays remarkable discipline, and if the
majority has formally taken action, one hears no grumbling or quibbling
from the discontented, whether among boys at play or men who have
everything at stake. The outvoiced minority is self-controlled and
good-natured and ready at once to take part in the work which the
majority has laid out; and herein lies one of the clearest results of
the American system and one of the superior traits of American

Closely related to this is another trait which lends to American life
much of its intrinsic worth—the unconditional insistence in any
competition on equal rights for both sides. The demand for “fair play”
dominates the whole American people, and shapes public opinion in all
matters whether large or small. And with this, finally, goes the belief
in the self-respect and integrity of one’s neighbour. The American
cannot understand how Europeans so often reinforce their statements with
explicit mention of their honour which is at stake, as if the hearer is
likely to feel a doubt about it; and even American children are often
apt to wonder at young people abroad who quarrel at play and at once
suspect one another of some unfairness. The American system does not
wait for years of discretion to come before exerting its influence; it
makes itself felt in the nursery, where already the word of one child is
never doubted by his playmates.

Here too, however, the brightest light will cast a shadow. Every
intelligent American is somewhat sadly aware that the vote of a majority
is no solution of a problem, and he realizes oftener than he will admit
that faith in the majority is pure nonsense if theoretical principles
are at issue. This is a system which compels him always where a genius
is required to substitute a committee, and to abide by the majority
vote. The very theory of unlimited opportunity has its obvious dangers
arising, here as everywhere, from extremes of feeling and so
exaggeration of the principle. The recognition of another’s rights leads
naturally to a sympathy for the weaker, which is as often as not
unjustified, and easily runs over into sentimentalism, not to say an
actual hysteria of solicitude. And this is in fact a phase of public
opinion which stands in striking contrast to the exuberant health of the
nation. What is even worse, the ever-sensitive desire not to interfere
in another’s rights leads to the shutting of one’s eyes and letting the
other do what he likes, even if it is unjust. And in this way a
situation is created which encourages the unscrupulous and rewards

For a long time the blackest spot on American life, specially in the
opinion of German critics, has been the corruption in municipal and
other politics. We need not now review the facts. It is enough to point
out that a comparison with conditions in Germany, say, is entirely
misleading if it is supposed to yield conclusions as to the moral
character of the American people. Unscrupulous persons who are keen for
plunder, are to be found everywhere; merely the conditions under which
the German public service has developed and now maintains itself make it
almost impossible for a reprobate of that sort to force his entrance.
And if a German official were discovered in dishonest practices it would
be, in fact, discrediting to the people. In America the situation is
almost reversed. The conditions on which, according to the American
system, the lesser officials secure their positions, specially in
municipal governments, and the many chances of enriching oneself
unlawfully and yet without liability to arrest, while the regular
remuneration and above all the social dignity of the positions are
relatively small, drive away the better elements of the population and
draw on the inferior. The charge against the Americans, then, should not
be that they make dishonest officials, but that they permit a system
which allows dishonest persons to become officials. This is truly a
serious reproach, yet it is not a charge of contemptible dishonesty but
of inexcusable complacency; and this springs from the national weakness
of leniency toward one’s neighbour, a trait which comes near to being a
fundamental democratic virtue. It cannot be denied, moreover, that the
whole nation is earnestly and successfully working to overcome this

The denunciations of the daily papers, however, must not be taken as an
indication of this, for the uncurbed American press makes the merest
unfounded suspicion an occasion for sensational accusations. Any one who
has compared in recent years the records of unquestionably impartial
judicial processes with the charges which had previously been made in
the papers, must be very sceptical as to the hue and cry of corruption.
Even municipal politics are much better than they are painted. The
easiest way of overcoming every evil would be to remove the public
service from popular and party influences, but this is, of course, not
feasible since it would endanger the most cherished prerogatives of
individualism. Besides, the American is comforted about his situation
because he knows that just this direct efficiency of the people’s will
is the surest means of thoroughly uprooting the evil as soon as it
becomes really threatening. He may be patient or indifferent too long,
but if he is once aroused he finds in his system a strong and ready
instrument for suddenly overturning an administration and putting
another in its stead. Moreover, if corruption becomes too unblushing an
“educational campaign” is always in order. James Bryce, who is of all
Europeans the one most thoroughly acquainted with American party
politics, gives his opinion, that the great mass of civil officials in
the United States is no more corrupt than that of England or Germany. An
American would add, however, that they excel their European rivals in a
better disposition and greater readiness to be of service.

But the situation is complicated by still another tendency which makes
the fight for clean and disinterested politics difficult. The spirit of
self-direction involves a political philosophy which is based on the
individual; and the whole commonwealth has no other meaning than an
adding up of the rights of separate individuals, so that every proposal
must benefit some individual or other if it is to commend itself for
adoption. Now since the state is a collection of numberless individuals
and the law merely a pledge between them all, the honour of the state
and the majesty of the law do not attach to a well organized and
peculiarly exalted collective will, which stands above the individual.
Such a thing would seem to an individualist a hollow abstraction, for
state and law consist only in the rights and responsibilities of such as
he. From this more or less explicitly formulated conception of political
life there accrue to society both advantages and dangers. The advantages
are obvious: the Mephistophelian saying, “Vernunft wird Unsinn, Wohltat
Plage,” becomes unthinkable, since the body-politic is continually
tested and held in check by the lively interests of individuals. Any
obvious injustice can be righted, for above the common weal stands the
great army of individuals by whom and for whom both state and law were

But the disadvantages follow as well. If state and law are only a mutual
restraint agreed on between individuals, the feeling of restraint
becomes lively in proportion as the particular individuals in question
can be pointed to, but vanishingly weak when, in a more intangible way,
the abstract totality requires allegiance. So one finds the finest
feeling for justice in cases of obligation to an individual, as in
contracts, for instance, and the minimum sense of right where the duty
is toward the state. There is no country of Europe where the sense of
individual right so pervades all classes of the inhabitants, a fact
which stands in no wise contradictory to the other prevalent tendency of
esteeming too lightly one’s righteous obligations to city or state. Men
who, in the interests of their corporations, try to influence in
irregular ways the professional politicians in the legislatures, observe
nevertheless in private life the most rigid principles of right; and
many a one who could safely be trusted by the widows and orphans of his
city with every cent which they own, would still be very apt to make a
false declaration of his taxable property.

There is a parallel case in the sphere of criminal law. Possibly even
more than the abuses of American municipal politics, the crimes of lynch
courts have brought down the condemnation of the civilized world.
Corruption and “lynch justice” are usually thought of as the two
blemishes on the nation, and it is from them that the casual observer in
Europe gets a very unfavourable impression of the American conception of
justice. We have already tried to rectify this estimate in so far as it
includes corruption, and as regards lynching it is perhaps even more in
error. Lynch violence is of course not to be excused. Crime is crime;
and the social psychologist is interested only in deciding what rubric
to put it under. Now the entire development of lynch action shows that
it is not the wanton violence of men who have no sense of right, but
rather the frenzied fulfillment of that which we have termed the
individualistic conception of justice. The typical case of lynching is
found, of course, in Southern States with a considerable negro
population. A negro will have attempted violence on a white woman,
whereon all the white men of the neighbourhood, assuming that through
the influence of his fellow negroes the criminal would not be duly
convicted, or else feeling that the regular legal penalty would not
suffice to deter others from the same crime, violently seize the culprit
from out the jurisdiction of the law, and after a summary popular trial
hang him. But these are not men who are merely seeking a victim to their
brutal instinct for murder. It is reported that after the deed, when the
horrid crime has been horribly expiated, the participants will quietly
and almost solemnly shake one another by the hand and disperse
peacefully to their homes, as if they had fulfilled a sacred obligation
of citizenship. These are men imbued with the individualistic notion of
society, confident that law is not a thing whose validity extends beyond
themselves, but something which they have freely framed and adopted, and
which they both may and must annul or disregard as soon as the
conditions which made it necessary are altered. It is a matter of course
that such presumption is abhorred and condemned in the more highly
civilized states of the Union, also by the better classes in the
Southern States; and a lyncher is legally a murderer. His deed, however,
is not to be referred psychologically to a deficient sense of justice.
That which is the foundation of this sense, resentment at an
infringement of the individual’s rights and belief in the connection
between sin and expiation, are all too vividly realized in his soul.

We have dwelt on these two offshoots of the individualistic idea of law
because they have been used constantly to distort the true picture of
American character. Rightly understood, psychologically, these phenomena
are seen to be black and ugly incidents, which have little to do with
the national consciousness of right and honour; they are the regrettable
accompaniments of an extreme individualism, which in its turn, to be
sure, grows naturally out of the doctrine of self-direction. Every
American knows that it is one of the most sacred duties of the land to
fight against these abuses, and yet the foreigner should not be deceived
into thinking, because so and so many negroes are informally disposed of
each year, and the politicians of Philadelphia or Chicago continue to
stuff their pockets with spoils in ways which are legally unpunishable,
that the American is not thoroughly informed with a respect for law. He
has not taken his instruction in the system of self-direction in vain.
And the German who estimates the tone of political life in America by
the corruption and lynch violence narrated in the daily papers, is like
the American who makes up his opinion of the German army, as he
sometimes does, from the harangues of social democrats on the abuses of
military officers, or from sensational disclosures of small garrisons on
the frontier.

One more trait must be mentioned, finally, which is characteristic of
every individualistic community, and which, having been impressed on the
individual by the American system, has now reacted and contributed much
to the working out of this system. The American possesses an astonishing
gift for rapid organization. His highest talents are primarily along
this line, and in the same way every individual has an instinct for
stationing himself at the right place in any organization. This is true
both high and low, and can be observed on every occasion, whether in the
concerted action of labouring men, in a street accident, or in any sort
of popular demonstration. For instance, one has only to notice how
quickly and naturally the public forms in orderly procession before a
ticket-office. This sure instinct for organization, which is such an
admirable complement to the spirit of initiative, gives to the American
workman his superiority over the European, for it is lamentably lacking
in the latter, and can be replaced only by the strictest discipline. But
this instinct finds its fullest expression in the political sphere. It
is this which creates parties, guarantees the efficiency of
legislatures, preserves the discipline of the state, and is in general
the most striking manifestation of the spirit of self-direction. But we
have seen that none of the merits of this system are quite without their
drawbacks, and this gift for organization has also its dangers. The
political parties which it fosters may become political “machines,” and
the party leader a “boss”—but here we are already in the midst of those
political institutions with which we must deal more in detail.

                              CHAPTER TWO
                          _Political Parties_

The Presidency is the highest peak in the diversified range of political
institutions, and may well be the first to occupy our attention. But
this chief executive office may be looked at in several relations:
firstly, it is one of the three divisions of the Government, which are
the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. And these might well
be considered in this order. But, on the other hand, the President
stands at the head of the federation of states; and the structural
beauty of the American political edifice consists in the repetition of
the whole in each part and of the part in every smaller part, and so on
down. The top governmental stratum of the federation is repeated on a
smaller scale at the head of each of the forty-five states, and again,
still smaller, over every city. The governor of a state has in narrower
limits the functions of the President, and so, within still narrower,
has the mayor of a city. We might, then, consider the highest office,
and after that its smaller counterparts in the order of their

But neither of these methods of treatment would bring out the most
important connection. It is possible to understand the President apart
from the miniature presidents of the separate states, or apart from the
Supreme Court, or even Congress, but it is not possible to understand
the President without taking account of the political parties. It is the
party which selects its candidate, elects him to office, and expects
from him in return party support and party politics. The same is true,
moreover, of elections to Congress and to the state legislatures. For
here again the party is the background to which everything is naturally
referred, and any description of the President, or Congress, or the
courts, which, like the original Constitution, makes no mention of the
parties, appears to us to-day as lacking in plastic reality, in
historical perspective. We shall, therefore, attempt no such artificial
analysis, but rather describe together the constitutional government and
the inofficial party formations. They imply and explain each other. Then
on this background of party activities we can view more comprehensively
the President, Congress, the Supreme Court, and the entire politics of
the federation and the states.

We must not forget, however, that in separating any of these factors
from the rest, we deal at once with highly artificial abstractions, so
that this description will have continually to neglect many facts and
cut the threads that cross its path. The history of the American
Presidency shows at all times its close connection with other
institutions. A treaty or even a nomination by the President requires
the ratification of the Senate before it is valid; and on the other
side, the President can veto any bill of Congress. Even the Supreme
Court and the President can hardly be considered apart, as was seen, for
instance, in the time of Cleveland, when his fiscal policy took final
shape in an income tax which the Supreme Court declared
unconstitutional, and therefore unlawful; or again when the colonial
policy of McKinley was upheld and validated by a decision of the same
court. Again, the party politics of state and town are no less
intimately related to the federal government and the Presidency. Here,
too, the leadings are in both directions; local politics condition the
national, and these in turn dominate the local. Cleveland was a man who
had never played a part in national politics until he became the
executive head of the nation. As Mayor of Buffalo he had been so
conspicuous throughout the State of New York as to be elected Governor
of that state, and then in the state politics so won the confidence of
his party as to be nominated and elected to the highest national office.
McKinley, on the other hand, although he, too, had been the Governor of
a state, nevertheless gained the confidence of his party during his long
term of service in Congress.

Similarly it may be said that local politics are the natural path which
leads to any national position, whether that of senator or
representative. And inversely the great federal problems play an often
decisive rôle in the politics of the states with which they strictly
have no connection. Federal party lines divide legislatures from the
largest to the smallest, and even figure in the municipal elections.
Unreasonable as it may seem, it is a fact that the great national
questions, such as expansion, free trade, and the gold standard, divide
the voters of a small village into opposing groups when they have to
elect merely some one to the police or street-cleaning department. It
is, therefore, never a question of a mechanical co-ordination and
independence of parts, but of an organic interdependence, and every
least district of the Union is thoroughly _en rapport_ with the central
government and doings of the national parties.

There are political parties in every country, but none like the American
parties. The English system presents the nearest analogy, with its two
great parties, but the similarity is merely superficial and extends to
no essential points. Even in the comparison between America and Germany
it is not the greater number of the German parties that makes the real
difference. For the German his party is in the narrower sense a group of
legislators, or, more broadly, these legislators together with the
general body of their constituents. The party has in a way concrete
reality only in the act of voting and the representation in parliament
of certain principles. Of course, even in Germany there exists some
organization between the multitude of voters and the small group which
they return to the Reichstag. Party directors, who are for the most part
the representatives themselves, central committees and local directors,
local clubs and assemblies are all necessary to stir up the voters and
to attend to various formalities of the election; but no one has dreamt
of a horde of professional politicians who are not legislators, of party
leaders who are more powerful than the representative to be elected, or
of parties which are stronger than either the parliament or the people.
The American party is first of all a closely knit organization with
extensive machinery and rigid discipline; to be represented in Congress
or legislature is only one of its many objects.

This situation is, however, no accident. One may easily understand the
incomparable machinery and irresistible might of the parties, if one but
realizes a few of the essential factors in American party life. First,
of course, comes the tremendous extent of the field in which the
citizens’ ballots have the decision. If it were as it is in the German
elections to the imperial diet, the American party organization would
never have become what it is. But besides the elections to Congress, the
state legislatures and local assemblies, there is the direct choice to
be made for President, vice-president, governor, the principal state
officials and deputies, judges of the appellate court, mayor and city
officials, and many others. The entire responsibility falls on the
voters, since the doctrine of self-direction ordains that only citizens
of the state shall vote for state officials, and of the city for city
officers. The governor, unlike an “Oberpräsident,” is not appointed by
the Government, nor a mayor by any authority outside his city. The voter
is nowhere to be politically disburdened of responsibility. But, with
the direct suffrage, his sphere of action is only begun. Almost every
one of the men he elects has in turn to make further appointments and
choices. The members of a state legislature elect senators to Congress,
and both governor and mayor name many officials, but most of all, the
President has to give out offices from ambassadors and ministers down to
village postmasters and light-house keepers, in all of which there is
ample chance to put the adherents of one’s party in influential
positions. Thus the functions of the American voter are incomparably
more important and far-reaching than those of the German voter.

But even with this, the political duties of the American citizen in
connection with his party are not exhausted. The spirit of
self-direction demands the carrying out of a principle which is unknown
to the German politician. The choice and nomination of a candidate for
election must be made by the same voting public; it must be carried on
by the same parliamentary methods, and decided strictly by a majority
vote. There are in theory no committees or head officials to relieve the
voting public of responsibility, by themselves benignly apportioning the
various offices among the candidates. A party may propose but one
candidate for each office, whereas there will often be several men
within the party who wish to be candidates for the same office, as for
instance, that of mayor, city counsellor, or treasurer. In every case
the members of a party have to select the official nominee of their
party by casting ballots, and thus it may happen that the contest
between groups within the party may be livelier than the ultimate battle
between the parties.

Now on a large scale such transactions can be no longer carried on
directly. All the citizens of the state cannot come together to nominate
the party candidate for governor. For this purpose, therefore, electors
have to be chosen, every one by a strict majority vote, and these meet
to fix finally on the candidates of the party. And when it comes to the
President of the whole country, the voting public elects a congress of
electors, and these in turn choose other electors, and this twice-sifted
body of delegates meets in national convention to name the candidate
whom the party will support in the final, popular elections. Through
such a strict programme for nominations the duties of the voters towards
their party are just doubled, and it becomes an art considerably beyond
the ability of the average citizen to move through this regressive chain
of elections without losing his way. It requires, in short, an
established and well articulated organization to arrange and conduct the
popular convocations, to deliberate carefully on the candidates to be
proposed for nomination, and to carry the infinitely complicated and yet
unavoidable operations through to their conclusion.

Finally, another factor enters in, which is once more quite foreign to
the political life of Germany. Every American election is strictly
local, in the sense that the candidate is invariably chosen from among
the voters. In Germany, when a provincial city is about to send a
representative to the Reichstag, the party in power accounts it a
specially favourable circumstance if the candidates are not men of that
very city, to suffer the proverbial dishonour of prophets in their own
country, and prefers to see on the ballot the names of great party
leaders from some other part of the empire. And when Berlin, for
example, selects a mayor, the city is glad to call him from Breslau or
Königsberg. This is inconceivable to the American. It is a corollary to
the doctrine of self-determination that whenever a political district,
whether village or city, selects a representative, the citizens shall
not only nominate and elect their candidate, but that they shall also
choose him from their own midst. But this makes it at once necessary for
the party to have its organized branches in every nook and corner of the
country. A single central organization graciously to provide candidates
for the whole land is not to be thought of. The party organization must
be everywhere efficient, and quick to select and weigh for the purposes
of the party such material as is at hand. It is obvious that this is a
very intricate and exacting task, and that if the organization were
sentimental, loose, or undisciplined, it would go to pieces by reason of
the personal and other opposing interests which exist within it. And if
it were less widely branched or less machine-like in its intricate
workings, it would not be able to do its daily work, pick candidates for
posts of responsibility, nominate electors, and elect its nominees; and
eventually it would sink out of sight. The American political party is
thus an essentially complete and independent organization.

Two evils are necessarily occasioned by this invulnerable organization
of party activities, both of which are peculiar and of such undoubtedly
bad consequences as to strike the most superficial observer, and
specially the foreigner; and yet both of which on closer view are seen
to be much less serious than one might have supposed at first. After a
party has grown up and become well organized in its purpose of
representing these or those political principles and of defending and
propagating them, it may at length cease to be only the means to an end,
and become an end unto itself. There is the danger that it will come to
look on its duties as being nothing else than to keep itself in power,
even by denying or opposing the principles with which it has grown up.
Moreover, such an organization exacts a colossal amount of labour which
must be rewarded in some form or other; and so it will find it
expedient, quite apart from the political ideals of the party, to exert
its influence in the patronage of state and other offices. The result is
that the rewards and honours conferred necessarily draw men into the
service of the party who care less for its ideals than for the
emoluments they are to derive. And thus two evils spring up together;
firstly, the parties lose their principles, and, secondly, take into
their service professional politicians who have no principles to lose.
We must consider both matters more in detail, the party ideals and the

America has two great parties, the Republican, which is just now in
power, and the Democratic. Other parties, as, for instance, the
Populist, are small, and while they may for a while secure a meagre
representation in Congress, they are too insignificant to have any
chance of success in the presidential elections: although, to be sure,
this does not prevent various groups of over-enthusiastic persons from
seizing the politically unfitting and impracticable occasion to set up
their own presidential candidate as a sort of figure-head. Any political
amateur, who finds no place in the official parties, may gather a few
friends under his banner and start a new, independent party; but the
bubble bursts in a few days. And even if it is a person like Admiral
Dewey, whose party banner is the flag under which he has sent an enemy’s
fleet to the bottom, he will succeed only in being amusing. The regular,
organized parties are the only ones which seriously count in politics.
It sometimes happens, however, that a few months before the elections a
small band of politically or industrially influential men will meet to
consider the project of a third party, while their real aim is to create
a little organization whose voting power will be coveted by both of the
great parties. In this way the founders plan to force one or both of
these to make concessions to the principles of their little group, since
the most important feature is that Republicans and Democrats are so
nearly equally balanced that only a slight force is needed to turn the
scales to either side. In recent elections McKinley and Cleveland have
each been elected twice to the Presidency, and no one can say whether
the next presidential majority will be Republican or Democrat. On
Cleveland’s second election the Democrats had 5,556,918, and the
Republicans 5,176,108 votes, while the Populists made a showing of one
million votes. But four years later the tables were turned, and McKinley
won on 7,106,199 votes, while Bryan lost on 6,502,685. It is clear,
therefore, that neither of the parties has to fear that a third party
will elect its candidate; nor can either rest on old laurels, for any
remission of effort is a certain victory for the other side. A third
party is dangerous only in so far as it is likely to split up one of the
two parties and so weaken it in an otherwise almost equal competition.

What, now, are the principles and aims of the Republican and Democratic
parties? Their names are not significant, since neither do the
Republicans wish to do away with American democracy, nor do the
Democrats have any designs on the republican form of government. At the
opening of the nineteenth century the present Democrats were called
“Democratic-Republicans,” and this long abandoned name could just as
well be given to all surviving parties. Neither aristocracy nor monarchy
nor anarchy nor plutocracy has ever so far appeared on a party
programme, and however hotly the battle may be waged between Republicans
and Democrats, it is forever certain that both opponents are at once
Democrats and Republicans. Wherein, then, do they differ?

The true party politician of America does not philosophize overmuch
about the parties; it is enough for him that one party has taken or is
likely to take this, and the other party that position on the living
questions, and beyond this his interest is absorbed by special problems.
He is reluctant enough when it comes to taking up the nicer question of
deducing logically from the general principles of a party what attitude
it ought to take on this or that special issue. The nearest he would
come to this would be conversely to point out that the attitude of his
opponents directly refutes their party’s most sacred doctrines. Those
who philosophize are mostly outsiders, either sojourners in the country,
or indigenous critics who are considerably more alive to the unavoidable
evils of party politics than to the merits. From such opponents of
parties as well as from foreigners, one hears again and again that the
parties do not really stand for any general principles at the present
time, that their separate existence has lost whatever political
significance it may have had, and that to-day they are merely two
organizations preserving a semblance of individuality and taking such
attitude toward the issues of the day as is likely to secure the largest
number of votes, in order to distribute among their members the fruits
of victory. The present parties, say these critics, were formed in that
struggle of intellectual forces which took place during the third
quarter of the last century; it was the dispute over slavery which led
to the Civil War. The Republican party was the party of the Northern
States in their anti-slavery zeal; the Democratic was the party of the
slave-holding Southern States; and the opposition had political
significance as long as the effects of the war lasted, and it was
necessary to work for the conciliation and renewed participation of the
defeated Confederacy. But all this is long past. Harrison, Cleveland,
Blaine, Bryan, McKinley, and Roosevelt became the standard-bearers of
their respective parties long after the wounds of the war had healed.
And it is no outcome from the original, distinguishing principles of the
parties, if the slave-holding party takes the side of free-trade, silver
currency and anti-imperialism, while the anti-slavery elements stay
together in behalf of the gold standard, protection, and expansion.

It looks, rather, as if the doctrines had migrated each to the other’s
habitat. The party which was against slavery was supporting the rights
of the individual; how comes it, then, to be bitterly opposing the
freedom of trade? And how do the friends of slavery happen to champion
the cause of free-trade, or, more remarkably, to oppose so passionately
to-day the oppression of the people of the Philippines? And what have
these questions to do with the monetary standard? It looks as if the
organization had become a body without a soul. Each party tries to keep
the dignity of its historic traditions and at every new juncture bobs
and ducks before the interests and prejudices of its habitual clientèle,
while it seeks to outwit the opposite party by popular agitation against
persistent wrongs and abuses or by new campaign catch-words and other
devices. But there is no further thought of consistently standing by any
fundamental principles. This hap-hazard propping up of the party
programme is evinced by the fact that either party is divided on almost
every question, and the preference of the majority becomes the policy of
the party only through the strict discipline and suppression of the
minority. The Republicans won in their campaign for imperialism, and yet
no anti-imperialist raised his voice more loudly than the Republican
Senator Hoar. The Democrats acclaimed the silver schemes of Bryan, but
the Gold Democrats numbered on their side really all the best men of the
party. Again, on other important issues both parties will adopt the same
platform as soon as they see that the masses are bound to vote that way.
Thus neither party will openly come out for trusts, but both parties
boast of deprecating them; and both profess likewise to uphold
civil-service reform. This is so much the case that it has often been
observed that within a wide range the programmes of the two parties in
no way conflict. One party extols that which the other has never
opposed, and the semblance of a difference is kept up only by such
insistent vociferation of the policy as implies some sly and powerful
gainsayer. And then with the same histrionic rage comes the other party
and pounces on some scandal which the first had never thought of
sanctioning. In short, there are no parties to-day but the powerful
election organizations which have no other end in view than to come into
power at whatever cost. It should seem better wholly to give up the
outlived issues, and to have only independent candidates who, without
regard to party pressure, would be grouped according to their attitude
on the chief problems of the day.

And yet, after the worst has thus been said, we find ourselves still far
removed from the facts. Each separate charge may be true, but the whole
be false and misleading: even although many a party adherent admits the
justness of the characterization, and declares that the party must
decide every case “on its merits,” and that to hold to principles is
inexpedient in politics. For the principles exist, nevertheless, and
have existed, and they dominate mightily the great to and fro of party
movements. Just as there have always been persons who pretend to deduce
the entire history of Europe from petty court intrigues and jealousies
of the ante-room or the boudoir, so there will always be wise-heads in
America to see through party doings, and deduce everything from the
speculative manipulations of a couple of banking houses or the private
schemes of a sugar magnate or a silver king. Such explanations never go
begging for a credulous public, since mankind has a deep-rooted craving
to see lowness put on exhibition. No man is a hero, it is said, in the
eyes of his valet. Nations, too, have their valets; and with them, too,
the fact is not that there are no heroes, but that a valet can see only
with the eyes of a valet.

It is true that the party lines of to-day have developed from the
conflicting motives of the Civil War. But the fundamental error which
prevents all insight into the deeper connections, lies in supposing that
the anti-slavery party was first inspired by the individual fate of the
negro, or in general the freedom of the individual. We must recall some
of the facts of history. The question of slavery did not make its first
appearance in the year 1860, when the Republican party became important.
The contrast between the plantation owners of the South, to whom slave
labour was apparently indispensable, and the industry and trade of the
North, which had no need of slaves, had existed from the beginning of
the century and was in itself no reason for the formation of political
parties. It was mainly an economic question which, together with many
other factors, led to a far-reaching opposition between the New England
States and the South, an opposition which was strengthened, to be sure,
by the moral scruples of the Puritanical North. But the earlier parties
were not marked off by degrees of latitude, and furthermore the
Southerner was by no means lacking in personal sympathy for the negro.
The question first came into politics indirectly. It was in those years
when the Union was pushing out into the West, taking in new territories
and then making them into states by act of Congress, according to the
provisions of the Constitution. In 1819 the question came up of
admitting Missouri to the Union, and now for the first time Congress
faced the problem as to whether slavery should be allowed in a new
state. The South wished it and the North opposed it. Congress finally
decided that Missouri should be a slave state, but that in the future
slavery should be forbidden north of a certain geographical line. Thus
slavery came to be recognized as a question within the jurisdiction of
the federal Congress. Wherewith, if Congress should vote against slavery
by a sufficient majority, it could forbid the practice in all the
Southern states. And this would mean their ruin.

It came thus to be for the interest of the Southern states, which at
that time had a majority, to see to it that for every free state
admitted to the Union there should be at least one new slave state; this
in order to hold their majority in Congress. Now it happened at that
time that the territories which, by reason of their population, would
have next to be admitted, lay all north of the appointed boundary and
would, therefore, be free states. Therefore the slave-holders
promulgated the theory that Congress had exceeded its jurisdiction and
interfered with the rights of the individual states. The matter was
brought before the Supreme Court, and in 1857 a verdict was given which
upheld the new theory. Thus Congress, that is, the Union as a whole,
could not forbid slavery in any place, but must leave the matter for
each state to decide. Herewith an important political issue was created,
and a part of the country stood out for the rights of the Union, a part
for those of the individual states. The group of men who at that time
foresaw that the whole Union was threatened, if so far-reaching rights
were to be conceded to the states, was the Republican party. It rose up
defiantly for the might and right of the federation, and would not
permit one of the most important social and economic questions to be
taken out of the hands of the central government and left to local
choice. It was, of course, not a matter of chance that slavery became
the occasion of dispute, but the real question at issue was the
jurisdiction of the Federal Government. The federal party won, under the
leadership of Abraham Lincoln. His election was the signal for the slave
states to secede, South Carolina being the first. In February, 1861,
these states formed a Confederation, and the Union was formally cleft.
In his inaugural speech of the following March, Lincoln firmly declared
that the Union must be preserved at all cost. The Civil War began in
April, and after fearful fighting the secessionists were returned to the
Union, all slaves were freed, and the Southern states were reconstructed
after the ideas of the Republican party. The opposing party, the
Democratic, was the party of decentralization. Its programme was the
freedom of the individual state but not the servitude of the individual

When one understands in this way the difference between the two parties,
one sees that the Republicans were not for freedom nor the Democrats for
slavery, but the Republicans were for a more complete subordination of
the states to the federation and the Democrats were for the converse.
This is a very different point of view, and from it very much which
seems incompatible with the attitude of the two parties toward the
question of slavery may now be seen as a necessary historical

If we cast a glance at foregoing decades, we see that ever since the
early days of the republic there has been hardly a time when these two
forces, the centralizing and the decentralizing, have not been in play.
It has lain deep in the nature of Teutonic peoples to pull apart from
one another, while at the same time the struggle for existence has
forced them to strong and well unified organization, so that scarcely a
single Teutonic people has been spared that same opposition of social
forces which is found in America. The origin of the Constitution itself
can be understood only with reference to these antagonistic tendencies.
The country wanted to be free of the miserable uncertainty, the internal
discord and outward weakness which followed the Declaration of
Independence; it wanted the strength of unity. And yet every single
state guarded jealously its own rights, suspected every other state, and
wished to be ensured against any encroachment of the federal power. And
so the Constitution was drawn up with special precautions ensuring the
equilibrium of power. At once, in Washington’s cabinet, both tendencies
were distinctly and notably represented. There sat the distinguished
Hamilton, the minister of finance and framer of the Constitution, who
was a tireless champion of the federal spirit, and beside him sat
Jefferson, the minister of state, who would have preferred to have the
federation transact nothing but foreign affairs and who believed in
general the less the legislation the better for the people. The
adherents of Hamilton’s policy formed the federalist party, while
Jefferson’s supporters were called the Democratic Republicans. The names
have changed and the special issues have altered with the progress of
events; indeed, apparently the centralist party has gone twice out of
existence, yet it was actually this party of which Lincoln became the
leader. Jefferson’s party, on the other hand, in spite of its change of
name, has never as an organization ceased to exist. The Democrats who,
in 1860, wished to submit the question of slavery to the individual
states, were the immediate heirs of the anti-federalists who had elected
their first president in 1800.

Now if the centralizing and decentralizing character of the two parties
is borne in mind, their further development down to the present day can
be understood. This development seems disconnected and contradictory
only when the slavery question is thought to be the main feature and the
Republicans are accounted the champions of freedom and the Democrats of
slavery. Even Bryce, who has furnished by far the best account of the
American party system, underestimates somewhat the inner continuity of
the parties. Even he believes that the chief mission of the Republican
party has been to do away with slavery and to reconstruct the Southern
states, and that since this end was accomplished as far back as in the
seventies, new parties ought naturally to have been formed by this time.
Although the old organizations have in fact persisted, a certain
vagueness and lack of vitality can be detected, he says, in both
parties. According to that conception, however, it would be
incomprehensible why those who formerly went forth to put an end to
slavery now advance to bring the Filipinos into subjection, and to
detain the poor man from purchasing his necessities where they are the

As we have seen, the Democrats were the party which was true to the
Jeffersonian principles, and in opposition to the supporters of
congressional authority defended the rights and free play of the
individual states. And the Republicans were those who wished to exalt
beyond any other the authority of the Federal Government. This is the
key to everything which has since come to pass. At the last presidential
elections there were three great party issues—the tariff, the currency,
and the question of expansion. In deciding on all three of these points,
the parties have conformed to their old principles. Free-trade versus
protective tariff was not a new bone of contention. Jefferson’s party
had urged free-trade with all the nations of the earth at the very
beginning of the century, and, of course, a decentralizing party which
likes as little supervision and paternalism as possible, will always
concede to the individual his right to buy what he requires where it
will cost the least. The Democrats did not oppose a tariff for revenue,
to help defray the public expenses, but they objected on principle to
that further tariff which was laid on goods in order to keep the prices
of them high and so to protect home industries. The centralists, that
is, the whigs or the Republicans, on the contrary, by their supreme
confidence in the one national government, had early been led to expect
from it a certain protection of the national market and some regulation
of the economic struggle for existence. And protective tariff was one of
the main planks in their platform early in the century.

It is clear, once more, that the anti-centralists had a direct and
natural interest in the small man, his economic weaknesses and burdens;
every member of society must have equal right and opportunity to work
out his career. It does not contradict this that the Democrats believed
in slavery. In the Southern states the negro had come in the course of
generations to be looked on as property, as a possession to be held and
utilized in a special way, and any feeling of personal responsibility
was of a patriarchal and not a political nature. The peculiarly
democratic element in the position taken was the demand that the slavery
question be left with the separate states to decide. As soon as fellow
citizens were concerned, the anti-centralist party held true to its
principles of looking out for the members on the periphery of society.
In this way the party favoured the progressive income tax, and has
always espoused any cause which would assist the working-man against the
superior force of protected capital, or the farmer against the
machinations of the stock market. The exaggerated notions as to the
silver standard of currency originated outside of the Democratic party,
and have intrinsically nothing to do with democracy. But as soon as a
considerable part of the people from one cause or another began really
to believe that nothing but a silver currency could relieve the
condition of the artisans and farmers, it became logically necessary for
the party which opposed centralization to adopt and foster this panacea,
however senseless it might seem to the more thoughtful elements within
the party. And it was no less necessary for the party which upholds
federal authority to oppose unconditionally anything which would
endanger the coinage and credit of the country. The gold standard is
specifically a Republican doctrine only when it is understood to
repudiate and oppose all risky experimenting with bimetallism.

In the new imperialistic movement, on the other hand, it was the
Democrats who were put on the defensive. Any one who leans toward
individualism must instinctively lean away from militarism, which makes
for strength at the centre; from aggressive movements to annex new
lands, whereby the owners are deprived of their natural rights to manage
their own affairs, and from any meddling with international politics,
for this involves necessarily increased discretionary powers for the
central government. It is not that the Democrats care less for the
greatness of their fatherland, but they despise that jingo patriotism
which abandons the traditions of the country by bringing foreign peoples
into subjection. It is left for the centralists to meet the new
situation squarely, undertake new responsibilities, and convince the
nation that it is strong and mature enough now to play a decisive rôle
in the politics of the world. And thus the two great parties are by no
manner of means two rudderless derelicts carried hither and thither by
the currents ever since the Civil War, but, rather, great three-deckers
following without swerve their appointed courses.

The parties have sometimes been distinguished as conservative and
liberal, but this is rather a reminiscence of conditions in Europe. Both
of the parties are really conservative, as results from both the
American character and the nature of the party organization. Even in the
most radical Democratic gathering the great appeal is never made in
behalf of some advantageous or brilliant innovation but on the grounds
of adherence to the old, reliable, and well-nigh sacred party
principles. If either party is at present departing from the traditions
of the past, it is the Republican party, which has always figured as the
more conservative of the two. Yet such a distinction is partly true,
since the centralists in conformity to their principles must specially
maintain the Federal authority and precedent, while the Democratic party
is more naturally inclined to give ear to discontented spirits, clever
innovators, and fantastic reformers, lest some decentralizing energy
should be suppressed. So the Republican party gains a fundamental and
cheerful complacence with the prevailing order of things, while the
Democratic party, even when it is in power, can never come quite to
rest. The contrast is not that between rich and poor; the Democratic
party has its quota of millionaires, and the Republican has, for
instance, in its negro clientage many of the poorest in the land. But
the Republican party is filled with self-satisfaction and the
consciousness of power and success, while the Democrats are forever
measuring the actual according to an ideal which can never be realized.
Like all centralists, the Republicans are essentially opportunists and
matter-of-fact politicians; and the Democrats, like all
anti-centralists, are idealists and enthusiasts. It has been well said
that a Democratic committee is conducted like a debating club, but a
Republican like a meeting of the stockholders in a corporation.

These facts clearly hint at a certain personal factor which influences
the citizen’s allegiance to one or other of the parties. In meeting a
man on a journey one has very soon the impression, though one may often
be mistaken, as to what party he belongs to, although he may not have
spoken a word about politics. But more distinctive than the personal
bias are the groupings by classes and regions which have come about
during the course of time. In the North and West the Republicans have
the majority among the educated classes, but in the South the educated
people are Democrats, particularly since the negro population there
holds to the old abolition party, so that the whites are the more ready
to be on the other side. The lower classes are moved by the most diverse
motives; the farmer is inclined to be Republican and the artisan of the
cities Democratic; Protestants are more often Republicans and Catholics
Democrats, a partition which began with the early identification of the
Puritan clergy of New England with the Republican party. This resulted
in an affiliation of Catholicism and Democracy which has had very
important consequences, particularly in municipal politics; the Irish,
who are invariably Catholics, vote with the Democratic party. The
Germans and Swedes, specially in the West, are mostly Republicans. In
these ways the most complicated combinations have come about,
particularly in the Middle West, where many of the larger states are
always uncertain at election time. In the elections of the State of New
York, the Democrats and Republicans have been alternately successful.
Very often the capital city votes differently from the rural districts,
as in Massachusetts, which is a stalwart Republican state, although
Boston, owing to the Irish population, is Democratic.

                  *       *       *       *       *

These considerations as to the groupings of the party adherents bring us
directly to our second question—who are the party politicians? We have
aimed to refute the assertion that the parties are without their
principles, but there is the further assertion that the politicians are
without principles. In asking whether politics are really in the hands
of unscrupulous men, one should first ascertain whether there are any
honourable motives which would lead a man to devote himself thereto. And
it appears that nowhere else are there such powerful inducements for a
conscientious man to go into politics. First of all there is the best
possible motive, the wish to see one’s country governed according to
one’s own ideas of justice and progress, and the desire to work in this
way for the honour, security, and welfare of the nation. Any one who has
witnessed the American presidential elections once or twice will be
convinced that the overwhelming majority of voters casts its votes in a
truly ethical spirit, although, of course, the moral feeling is now
more, now less, profound. At times when technical matters are chiefly
the order of the day, or at best matters of expediency, enthusiasm for a
party victory has to be kept up in other ways; but when it comes to
questions of the national solidarity and honour, or of justice and
freedom, then really high ethical enthusiasm holds place before all
other political motives. In fact, the keen party spirit of the American
is rather in danger of making him feel a virtuous indignation against
the opposing party, even in regard to purely technical issues, as if it
had fallen into mere frivolity or been criminally irresponsible. And in
this way the American is never at a loss for a moral stream of some sort
to keep the political mill-wheel turning.

After patriotic enthusiasm come the economic and social motives which
even the most high-flown idealist would not designate as corrupt. It is
not only just, but it is actually the ideal of politics that every
portion of the population, every class and calling, as well as every
geographical section, should see its peculiar interests brought up for
political debate. It is possible for an equilibrium of all existing
forces to be reached only when all elements alike are aware of their
chance to assert themselves. Nothing could be gained if agriculture were
to become political sponsor for the industrial interests, or if industry
were to assume the care and protection of agriculture. A due and proper
emphasis by the respective interests of their own needs will always be
an honourable and, for the public welfare, useful incentive to political
efficiency. It is not to be doubted that in this way American politics
have always induced millions of citizens to the liveliest participation.
As we have seen, free-trade and protective tariff grew out of the chief
demands of the two parties; but this does not prevent the same party
opposition from standing in a way for the diverse and partly
contradictory interests of Northern industry and Southern plantation
life. Hence the parties are immediately interested in trade and
commerce. In a similar way the interests of the West have been bound up
in bimetallism schemes, while the commercial integrity of the East
depends on a gold currency. Legislation affecting trusts and banks and
the policy of expansion touch some of the deepest economic problems, and
summon all those concerned to come forward and play their part. The same
holds true of social interests. The negro, struggling against
legislation aimed directly at himself, seeks social protection through
the Republican party, while the Irish, Swedes, and Russians also look
for political recognition to advance their social interests.

Now these moral, social, and economic motives interest the citizen of
every land in politics; but there are other considerations here in
play, which, although no less honourable, figure less importantly in
Germany for example. First of all stands loyalty to the traditions of
one’s party. The son joins the party of his father, and is true to it
for life. In this way many are held in the party net who otherwise
might not agree to its general tenets. In a country where there are
many parties with only slight shades of difference, where, say, the
national-liberals are only a step removed from the independents or the
independent-conservatives, each new election period offers the voter a
free choice between parties. But where there are only two camps a
party loyalty is developed which leaves very much less to personal
inclination, and makes possible a firm party discipline. Then the
citizen may come to say of his party as of his fatherland, “It may be
right or wrong, it is still my party.” A man like Hoar may use all the
force of his rhetoric to condemn imperialism and to stigmatize it as a
crime, and he may leave no stone unturned to bring his own Republican
party to abandon the imperialistic policy, and yet, if his
recommendations are officially outvoiced, he will not falter in
supporting the regular candidates of his party, imperialists though
they be, as against the anti-imperialist Democratic candidates. The
typical American will rather wait for his own party to take up and
correct the evils which he most deplores than go over to the other
party which may be already working for the same reforms.

To be sure, there are Americans who account this point of view narrow or
even culpable, and who reserve the right of judging the programmes of
both parties afresh each time and of casting their lot on the side which
they find to be right. The example of Carl Schurz will be readily
recalled, who in 1896 delivered notable speeches in favour of McKinley
against Bryan, but came out in 1900 for Bryan as against McKinley. He
was a Republican on the first occasion, because at that time the
question of currency was in the foreground, and he thought it paramount
to preserve the gold standard, while in the next election he went over
to the Democrats because the question of expansion had come to the fore,
and he preferred the short-sighted silver policy to the unrighteous
programme of war and subjugation. The number of such independent
politicians is not small, and among them are many of the finest
characters in the land. Behind them comes the considerable class of
voters who may be won over to either party by momentary considerations
of business prosperity, by any popular agitation for the sake of being
with the crowd, by personal sympathies or antipathies, or merely through
discontent with the prevailing régime. If there were not an appreciable
part of the people to oscillate in this way between the parties, the
elections would fall out the same way from year to year, the result
could always be told beforehand, and neither party would have any
incentive to active effort; in short, political life would stagnate.
Thus the citizens who owe no party allegiance but take sides according
to the merits of the case are very efficient practically: in a way they
represent the conscience of the country, and yet three-fourths of the
population would look on their political creed with suspicion, or,
indeed, contempt. They would insist that the American system needs great
parties, and that parties cannot be practically effective if there is no
discipline in their organization—that is, if the minority of their
membership is not ready to submit cheerfully to the will of the
majority. If any man wishes to make reforms, he should first set about
to reform his party. Whereas, if on every difference of opinion he goes
over to the enemy’s camp, he simply destroys all respect for the weight
of a majority, and therewith undermines all democracy. It is as if a
party, which found itself defeated at the polls, should start a
revolution; whereas it is the pride of the American people to accept
without protest the government which the majority has chosen. And so
party allegiance is taken as the mark of political maturity, and the men
who hold themselves superior to their parties are influential at the
polls, but in the party camps they see their arguments held in light
esteem. They are mistrusted by the popular mind.

In addition to all this the American happens to be a born politician. On
the one hand the mere technique of politics fascinates him; every boy is
acquainted with parliamentary forms, and to frame amendments or file
demurrers appeals vastly to his fancy. It is an hereditary trait. On the
other hand, he finds in the party the most diversified social
environment which he may hope to meet. Aside from his church, the farmer
or artisan finds his sole social inspiration in his party, where the
political assemblies and contact with men of like opinions with himself
make him feel vividly that he is a free and equal participant in the
mighty game. Moreover, local interests cannot be separated from those of
the state, nor these from the affairs of the whole country; for the
party lines are drawn even in the smallest community, and dominate
public discussions whether great or small, so that even those who feel
no interest in national questions but are concerned only with local
reforms, perhaps the school system or the police board, find themselves,
nevertheless, drawn into the machinery of the great national parties.

Yet another motive induces the American to enter politics, a motive
which is neither good nor bad. Party politics have for many an aspect of
sport, as can be easily understood from the Anglo-Saxon delight in
competition and the nearly equal strength of the two parties. All the
marks of sport can be seen in the daily calculations and the ridiculous
wagers which are made, and in the prevalent desire to be on the side of
the winner. Not otherwise can the parades, torch-light processions, and
other demonstrations be explained, which are supposed to inspire the
indifferent or wavering with the conviction that this party and not the
other will come out victorious.

The American, it is seen, has ample inducements to engage in the
activities of party, from the noblest patriotic enthusiasm down to the
mere excitement over a sport. And it is doubtless these various motives
which sustain the parties in their activity and supply such an
inexhaustible sum of energy to the nation’s politics. By them the masses
are kept busily turning the political wheels and so provided with a
political schooling such as they get in no other country.

But we have seen that to enlist in the service of a political party
means more than to discuss and vote conscientiously, to work on
committees, or to contribute to the party treasury. Every detail of
elections, local or national, in every part of the country, has to be
planned and worked out by the party organization; and particularly in
the matter of nomination of candidates by the members of the party, the
work of arranging and agitating one scheme or another has become a
veritable science, demanding far more than merely amateur ability. It
must not be forgotten that in questions of a majority the American
complacent good humour is put aside. The party caucuses are managed on
such business-like methods that even in the most stormy debates the
minutest points of expediency are kept well in mind. If the several
interests are not represented with all that expertness with which an
attorney at court would plead the cause of a client, their case is as
good as lost. The managers have to study and know the least details, be
acquainted with personal and local conditions, with the attitude of the
press, of the officials, and of the other party leaders. Those members
of the organization who conduct the large federal sections and so deal
with more than local affairs, have to be at once lawyers, financiers,
generals, and diplomats. Shrewd combinations have to be devised in which
city, state, and national questions are nicely interwoven and matters of
personal tact and abstract right made to play into each other; and these
arrangements must be carried out with an energy and discretion that will
require the undivided attention of any man who hopes to succeed at the
business. Thus the American conditions demand in the way of organization
and agitation such an outlay of strength as could not be expected of the
citizens of any country, except in times of war, unless in addition to
patriotic motives some more concrete inducements should be offered. And
thus there are certain advantages and rewards accruing to the men who
devote themselves to this indispensable work.

The first of these inducements is, presumably, honour. The personal
distinctions which may be gotten in politics cannot easily be estimated
after German standards. There are both credits and debits which the
German does not suspect. To the former belongs the important fact that
all offices up to the very highest can be reached only by the way of
party politics. The positions of president, ambassadors, governors,
senators, ministers, and so forth are all provided with salaries, but
such inadequate ones as compared with the scale of living which is
expected of the incumbents that no one would even accept any of these
positions for the sake of the remuneration. In most cases an actual
financial sacrifice has to be made, since the holding of office is not
an assured career, but rather a brief interruption of one’s private
business. It is to be remembered, moreover, that a civil office carries
no pension. And thus it frequently happens that a man ends his political
career because he has spent all of his money, or because he feels it a
duty to secure his financial position. Reed, who was in a way the most
important Republican leader, gave up his position as speaker of the
House of Representatives and broke off all political entanglements in
order to become partner in a law firm. In the same way Harrison, on
retiring from the presidency, resumed his practice of law, and Day
resigned the secretaryship of state because his financial resources were
not adequate. An ambassador hardly expects his salary to be more than a
fraction of his expenditures. Now this circumstance need excite no pity,
since there is an abundance of rich men in America, and the Senate has
been nicknamed the Millionaire’s Club; but it should serve to show that
honour, prestige, and influence are the real incentives to a political
career, and not the “almighty dollar,” as certain detractors would have
one believe. There are persons, to be sure, who have gotten money in
politics, but they are few and insignificant beside those who have been
in politics because they had money. The political career in America thus
offers greater social rewards than in Germany, where the holding of
office is divorced from politics, where the government is an hereditary
monarchy and strongly influenced by an hereditary aristocracy, and where
even the merest mayor or city councilman must have his appointment
confirmed by the government.

Since the social premiums of the political life are so many and so
important it may seem astonishing that this career does not attract all
the best strength of the nation, and even embarrass the parties with an
overplus of great men. The reasons why it does not are as follows:
Firstly, distinctions due merely to office or position have not in a
democratic country the same exclusive value which they have with an
aristocratic nation. The feeling of social equality is much stronger,
and all consideration and regard are paid to a man’s personal qualities
rather than to his station. A land which knows no nobility, titles, or
orders is unschooled in these artificial distinctions, and while there
is some social differentiation it is incomparably less. One looks for
one’s neighbour to be a gentleman, and is not concerned to find out what
he does during office hours. The reputation and influence which are
earned in political life are much more potent than any honour deriving
from position. But here is found a second retarding factor: the
structure of American politics does not conduce to fame. In Germany the
party leaders are constantly in the public eye; they deliver important
speeches in the Reichstag or the Landtag, and their oratorical
achievements are read in every home. In America the debates of Congress
are very little read, and those of the state legislatures almost not at
all; the work of government is done in committees. The speeches of the
Senate are the most likely to become known, and yet no one becomes
famous in America through his parliamentary utterances, and public
sentiment is seldom influenced by oratorical performances at Washington.

In the third place, every American party officer must have served in the
ranks and worked his way up. It is not every man’s business to spend his
time with the disagreeable minutiæ of the local party organization; and
even if he does not dislike the work, he may well object to the society
with which he is thrown in these lower political strata. A fourth and
perhaps the principal item comes in here. In its lowest departments
politics can be made to yield a pecuniary return, and for this reason
attracts undesirable and perhaps unscrupulous elements whose mere
co-operation is enough to disgust better men and to give the purely
political career a lower status in public opinion than might be expected
in such a thoroughly political community.

This question of the pecuniary income from political sources is even by
the Americans themselves seldom fairly treated. There are three possible
sources of income. Firstly, the representatives of the people are
directly remunerated; secondly, the politician may obtain a salaried
federal, state, or municipal office; and, thirdly, he may misuse his
influence or his office unlawfully to enrich himself. It is a
regrettable fact that the first source of revenue attracts a goodly
number into politics. It is not the case with Congress, but many a man
sits in the state legislatures who is there only for the salary, while
in reality the monetary allowance was never meant as an inducement but
as a compensation, since otherwise many would be deterred altogether
from politics. But the stipend is small and attracts no one who has
capacity enough to earn more in a regular profession. It attracts,
however, all kinds of forlorn and ill-starred individuals, who then
scramble into local politics and do their best to bring the calling into
disrepute. And yet, after all, these are so small a fraction of the
politicians as to be entirely negligible. There would be much worse
evils if the salaries were to be abolished. There are others who make
money in criminal ways, and of course they have ample opportunity for
deception, theft, and corruption in both town and country. Their case is
not open to any difference of opinion. It is easy for a member of the
school committee to get hold of the land on which the next school-house
is to be built, and to sell it at a profit; or for a mayor to approve a
street-car line which is directly for the advantage of his private
associates; or for a captain of police to accept hush money from
unlawful gambling houses. Everybody knows that this sort of thing is
possible, and that the perpetrators can with difficulty be convicted,
yet they occasionally are and then get the punishment which they
deserve. But this is no more a part of the political system than the
false entries of an absconding cashier are a part of banking. And even
if every unproved suspicion of dishonesty were shown to be well founded,
the men who so abuse their positions would be as much the exceptions as
are those who enter politics for the sake of the salary. We shall return
later to these excrescences.

Of the three sources of income from politics, only one remains to be
considered—the non-legislative but salaried offices with which the
politician may be rewarded for his pains. This is the first and surest
means by which the party keeps its great and indispensable army of
retainers contentedly at work. And here the familiar evils enter in
which are so often held up for discussion in Germany. An American
reformer, in criticizing the condition of the parties, is very apt not
to distinguish between the giving out of offices to professional
politicians as rewards and the later corrupt using of these offices by
their incumbents. And as soon as the politician receives an income from
the public treasury, the reformer will cry “stop thief.” The so-called
“spoils system,” by which the federal offices in the patronage of the
President are distributed to those who have worked hardest in the
interests of the victorious party, will occupy our attention when we
come to the political problems of the day. We shall have then to mention
the advantages and disadvantages of civil service reform. But it must be
said right here that, however commendable this reform movement may be in
many respects, and in none more than in the increased efficiency which
it has effected in the public service, nevertheless the spoils system
cannot be called dishonourable, and no one should characterize
professional politicians as abominable reprobates because they are
willing to accept civil positions as rewards from the party for which
they have laboured.

It is a usage which has nothing to do with the corrupt exploitation of
office, and the German who derives from it the favourite prejudice
against the political life of the United States must not suppose that he
has thereby justified the German conception of office. Quite on the
contrary, no one ever expects the German government to bestow offices,
titles, or orders on members of the political opposition, to confirm,
for instance, an independent for the position of Landrat or a social
democrat for city councillor, while co-operation in the plans of the
government never goes unrewarded. Above all, a German never looks on his
official salary as a sort of present taken from the public treasury, but
as the ordinary equivalent of the work which he does, while the American
has a curious conception of the matter quite foreign to the German,
which is the ground for his contempt of the “spoils system.” To
illustrate by a short example: a state attorney who had been elected to
the same office time after time, was asked to renew his candidacy at the
coming elections. But he declined to do so, and explained that he had
been supported for twenty years out of the public funds, and that it was
therefore high time for him to earn his own living by the ordinary
practice of law. A German cannot understand this conception, traditional
though it is in America, but he can easily see that the man who shares
such views as to public salaries will naturally consider it an act of
plunder when the party in power distributes the best public posts to its
own followers.

The case would be somewhat different if the politicians who step into
offices were essentially incapable or indolent, though this is aside
from the principle in question. Germans have recently become used to
seeing a general or a merchant become minister. In America it is a
matter of course that a capable man is qualified, with the aid of
technically trained subordinates, for any office. And no one denies that
politicians make industrious office-holders. And yet the same remarkable
charge is always made, that the holder of an office receives a gift from
the public chest.

These considerations are not meant as an argument against civil service
reform, which is supported by the best men of both parties, although
they are not exactly the most zealous party “heelers.” But the
superficial assertion must be refuted, that the spoils system shows lack
of morality in party politics. No unprejudiced observer would find
anything improper in the attitude of those who endure the thankless and
arduous labours imposed by the party for the sake of a profitable
position in the government service. It would be equally just to reproach
the German official with lack of character because he rises to a high
position in the service of the government. If this were the true idea,
Grover Cleveland, who has done more than any other president for the
cause of civil service reform, could be said actually to have favored
the spoils system. In an admirable essay on the independence of the
executive, he says:—

“I have no sympathy with the intolerant people who, without the least
appreciation of the meaning of party work and service, superciliously
affect to despise all those who apply for office as they would those
guilty of a flagrant misdemeanor. It will indeed be a happy day when the
ascendancy of party principles and the attainment of wholesome
administration will be universally regarded as sufficient rewards of
individual and legitimate party service.... In the meantime why should
we indiscriminately hate those who seek office? They may not have
entirely emancipated themselves from the belief that the offices should
pass with party victory, but in all other respects they are in many
instances as honest, as capable, and as intelligent as any of us.”

There are such strong arguments for separating public office from the
service of party, that every reformer is amply justified if on his
native soil he stigmatizes the present usage as corrupt. But the
representation that all professional politicians are despicable scamps
because they work for their party in the hope of being preferred for
public office, is unjust and misleading when it is spread abroad in
other countries. Abuses there are, to be sure, and the situation is such
as to attract swarms of worthless persons. It is true, moreover, that
even in the higher strata of professional politics there is usually less
of broad-minded statesmanship than of ingenious compromise and clever
exploitation of the opposing party’s weaknesses and of popular whims and
prejudices. Petty methods are often more successful than enlightened
ones, and cunning men have better chances than those who are more
high-minded. In the lower strata, moreover, where it is important to
cajole the voting masses into the party fold, it may be inevitable that
men undertake and are rewarded for very questionable services.
Nevertheless the association of party and office is not intrinsically

In the same category of unjust reproaches, finally, belongs the talk
over the money paid into the party treasury. It is, of course, true that
the elections both great and small eat up vast sums of money; the
mountains of election pamphlets, the special trains for candidates who
journey from place to place in order to harangue the people at every
rural railway station, from the platform of the coach—Roosevelt is said
at the last election in this way to have addressed three million
persons—the banquet-halls and bands of music, and the thousand other
requisites of the contest are not to be had for nothing. It is taken as
a matter of course that the supporters of the party are taxed, and of
course just those will be apt to contribute who look for further
material benefit in case of victory; it is also expected that, of
course, the larger industries will help the propaganda of the
high-tariff party, that the silver mine owners will generously support
bimetallism, and that the beer brewers will furnish funds when it is a
question between them and the Prohibitionists. But in the endeavour to
hurt the opposing party some persons make such contributions a ground of
despicable slander. Any one who considers the matter really without
prejudice will see not only that the American party politics are a
necessary institution, but also that they are infinitely cleaner and
better than the European newspaper reader will ever be inclined to

                             CHAPTER THREE
                            _The President_

The President of the United States is elected by the people every four
years. He may be re-elected and, so far as the Constitution provides, he
may hold the first position in the land for life, by terms always of
four years at a time. A certain unwritten law, however, forbids his
holding office for more than two terms. George Washington was elected
for two terms, and after him Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James
Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, Grover
Cleveland, and William McKinley; that is, nine out of twenty presidents
have received this distinction. No president has served a third term of
office, because since Washington declined to be nominated for a third
time the conservative sense of the Americans has cherished the doctrine
that no man should stand at the helm of the nation longer than eight

At the present day it is urged from many sides that the provisions of
the Constitution ought to be changed. It is said that the frequently
recurring presidential elections, with the popular excitement which they
involve during the months immediately preceding, are an appreciable
disturbance to economic life and that the possibility of being
re-elected is too apt to make the President in the first term of office
govern his actions with an eye to his second election. It is proposed,
therefore, that every President shall be elected for six years and that
re-election shall be forbidden by the Constitution. Experience of the
past, however, hardly speaks for such a plan. The inclination shown by
the President to yield to popular clamours or the instances of his party
has been very different with different presidents, but on the whole it
has not been noticeably greater in the first than in the second term of
office. More especially, the disadvantages which come from the
excitement over elections are certainly made up for by the moral
advantage which the act of election brings to the people. The
presidential election is a period of considerable reflection and
examination of the country’s condition, and everybody is worked up to
considerable interest; and the more changeable the times are so much the
more rapidly new problems come up. Therefore there should be no thought
of putting the decisive public elections, with their month-long
discussions, at further intervals apart.

The most important duties and prerogatives of the President involve
foreign as well as domestic affairs, and of the latter the most
important concern the administration; a less important, although by no
means an insignificant, part of his duties relates to legislation. The
President is commander-in-chief of the army and of the navy, and with
the approval of a majority of the Senate he appoints ambassadors,
consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all the higher federal
officials. Subject to the ratification of two-thirds of the Senate, he
concludes treaties with foreign powers and regulates diplomatic
relations. He has, moreover, the right to send back inside of ten days,
with his veto, any bill which Congress has passed, and in this case the
bill can become law only by being once more voted on by Congress and
receiving in both houses a two-third’s majority. The President has the
power to convene both houses in special sessions, and is expected to
send messages to both houses when they meet, in which he describes the
political situation of the country and recommends new measures. In
addition to this he has the right of pardon and the right to afford
protection to individual states against civil violence, if they cannot
themselves quell the disturbance.

Such are the principal features of the presidential office, and it is
clear that here as everywhere in American civil law the spirit of
precaution has tried from the outset to limit the possibilities of
abuse. Although he is commander-in-chief of the army, the President has
not the right to declare war, this right being given to Congress. The
President negotiates with foreign representatives and signs all
treaties, but these are not valid until the Senate has approved them
with a two-thirds vote. He nominates government officials, but once
again only with the sanction of the Senate. The President convenes
Congress and recommends matters for its legislative consideration, but
the President cannot, like the German Government, lay bills before
Congress for its ratification. While the President sends his message to
Congress his ministers have not, as in Germany, a seat in parliament,
and cannot, therefore, in the debates actively support the President’s

The President is authorized to veto any bill that is passed through
Congress, but his veto is not final since the bill can still become a
law if Congress is sufficiently of one accord to override his veto.
Therefore a whimsical or arbitrary president would find small scope for
his vagaries so long as he keeps within his powers, while if he exceeds
them he can be impeached, like a king under old English law. The House
of Representatives can at any time file complaint against the President
if he is suspected of treason or corruption or any other crime. In such
case the Senate, under the chairmanship of a judge of the Supreme bench,
constitutes a court of trial which is empowered to depose the President
from office. Up to the present time but one president, Andrew Johnson,
has been impeached, and he was acquitted. The seditionary ambition of a
man who should try to gain complete control, to overthrow the
Constitution, and at the head of the army, or of the populace, or, as
might be more likely, of the millionaires, to institute a monarchy,
would have no chance of success. Neither a Napoleon nor a Boulanger
would be possible in America.

In spite of these provisions, it is to be observed that tremendous power
is in the hands of this one man. Thousands and thousands of officials
appointed by his predecessor can be removed by a stroke of his pen, and
none can take their places except those whom he nominates. And he can
put a barrier before any law such as Congress could only in exceptional
cases ride over. Cleveland, for instance, who to be sure made the freest
use of his authority in this respect, vetoed more than three hundred
bills, and only twice did Congress succeed in setting aside his veto.
The President may negotiate with foreign powers up to the point where a
loyal and patriotic Congress has hardly any choice but to acquiesce. The
President can virtually force Congress to a declaration of war, and if
insurrection breaks out in any state he can at his pleasure employ the
federal troops on behalf of one or the other faction, and when war has
once been declared the presidential authority grows hourly in
importance. The army and navy stand under his direction, and since the
Constitution makes him responsible for the maintenance of law and order
in the country he becomes virtually dictator in case of an insurrection.
Bryce says very justly that Abraham Lincoln exercised more power than
any man in England since Oliver Cromwell, and the anti-imperialistic
papers of America always assert that in their Philippine policy McKinley
and Roosevelt have taken on themselves more authority than any European
monarch, excepting the Czar, could acquire.

In two respects the President is more important as compared with the
representatives of the people, even in times of peace, than the king of
England or the President of France. Firstly, his cabinet is entirely
independent of the voice of parliament, and it has often been the case
that while a majority in Congress sharply opposed the party policy of
the President, this has not influenced the composition of his cabinet.
The cabinet ministers are the representatives of the presidential
policy, and they do not even take part in the doings of Congress.

Secondly, the President is not less but rather more than Congress a
representative of the people. A monarch who takes up a position against
the parliament thereby antagonizes the people. The President of France
is elected by the people, but only through their parliamentary
representatives; the chambers elect him, and therefore he is not an
independent authority. The President of the United States, on the other
hand, is in his own person a symbol of the collective will of the
people, as opposed to the different members of Congress, which is of
diverse composition and chosen on more local issues. There is moral
authority, therefore, vested in the President. He is the true will of
the people and his veto is their conscience. It is almost astonishing
that a Republican democracy should have put such tremendous power into
the hands of a single man. It is the more striking inasmuch as the
Declaration of Independence related at length the sins of the English
monarch. But we must bear in mind that the framers of the Constitution
had to make a new and dangerous experiment, wherein they were much more
afraid of that so far unknown and incalculable factor, the rule of the
people, than the power of that single person whose administrative
possibilities they had, in the colonial days, been able to observe in
the governors of the several states. These had been diminutive but, on
the whole, encouraging examples. Before all else the great and
incomparable George Washington, the popular, dashing, and yet cautious
aristocrat, had presided at the deliberations in which the Constitution
was discussed, and had himself stood tangibly before the popular mind as
the very ideal of a president.

Thus the President stands with tremendous powers at the helm of the
nation. Who has sought him out for this position from the hundreds of
thousands, whose hot ambition has led them to dream of such a
distinction, and who has finally established him in this highest
elective office on the face of the earth? The Constitution makes no
other provision for the selection of a candidate than that he shall have
been born in the land, that he shall be at least thirty-five years old,
and shall have resided at least fourteen years in this his native
country. On the other hand, the Constitutional provisions for his
election are highly complicated, much more so indeed than the
circumstances really call for. In fact, while the electoral procedures
still comply with the wording of the original Constitution, actual
conditions have so changed since the establishment of the Union that the
prescribed machinery is not only partly unnecessary, but in some cases
even works in opposition to what had been originally intended, and
inconsistently with itself. The law requires, merely to mention the main
point, that every state shall elect by popular vote a certain number of
men who are called electors, and that a majority of the electors shall
choose the President. For each state the number of electors is the same
as that of the representatives which it sends to both houses of Congress
together; it depends, therefore, on the number of inhabitants. Out of
the 447 electors, 36 come from the State of New York, 32 from
Pennsylvania, 24 from Illinois, 23 from Ohio, 15 from Massachusetts, but
only 4 from Colorado, Florida, or New Hampshire; and only 3 from
Delaware, Idaho, North Dakota, Utah, and several others. In case the
vote of the electors should give no absolute majority to any candidate,
the House of Representatives has to elect the President from among the
three candidates who have received the greatest number of electoral

The intention of the men who framed the Constitution in making these
roundabout electoral provisions is clear enough; the election was not
meant to be made directly by the people. When in the first discussions
of the Constitution it was suggested that the President be elected
directly by the people, some of the framers called the scheme chimerical
and others called it impracticable. Indeed, some even doubted whether
the people would be competent to choose the electors since, it was said,
they would know too little about the persons and so would be liable to
grave errors. This mistrust went so far, it is said, that leaving the
election of the highest executives directly to the people seemed as
unnatural as asking a blind man to match colors. The first plan which
was at all approved by the Assembly was that Congress should elect the
President; and not until later did it adopt the system of electors. It
was hoped that for the electoral college the people would select the
best, most experienced, and most cautious men of the country, and that
these men should be left quite free to choose the highest executive as
carefully and conscientiously as possible: and so it really happened
when the electors met for the first time and fixed unanimously on George

But the situation is somewhat changed to-day: for a hundred years it has
been the case that the electors have inevitably been deprived of all
free choice. They are as passive as a printed ballot. They are no longer
elected in order to come to a decision as to the best President, but
merely to vote for this or that special candidate as designated, and for
a hundred years not a single elector has disappointed this expectation.
Thus the election of the President is practically accomplished on the
day in November when the electors are voted for. McKinley defeated Bryan
for the Presidency on the ninth of November, 1900, although no elector
had officially voted for either one or the other; nor would he have a
chance to vote until the first day of January, when he was mechanically
to deposit his ballot.

The indirect election prescribed by the Constitution has therefore
become to all intents and purposes a direct one, and the whole machinery
of electors is really superfluous. It may, indeed, be said to have
become contradictory in itself.

Since the original intention to make an electoral college of the
best citizens has been frustrated by the popular spirit of
self-determination, the electoral apparatus can have to-day no other
significance than to give expression to the voice of the majority.
But now just this it is in the power of the electoral system
completely to suppress. Let us suppose that only two candidates are
in question. If the election were simply a direct one, of course
that candidate would win who received the most votes; but with
electors this is not the case, because the number of electors who
are pledged to vote for these two candidates need not at all
correspond to the number of ballots cast on the two sides. If in the
State of New York, for instance, three-fifths of the population are
for the first candidate and two-fifths for the second, the
three-fifths majority determines the whole list of 36 electors for
the first candidate, and not an elector would be chosen for the
other. Now it can very well happen that a candidate in those states
in which he secures all the electors will have small majorities,
that is, his opponent will have large minorities, while his opponent
in the states which vote for him will have large majorities; and in
this way the majority of electors will be pledged for that candidate
who has received actually the smaller number of votes. It is a fact
that both Hayes in 1877 and Harrison in 1889 were constitutionally
elected for the Presidency by a minority of votes.

While in form the voters choose only the electors from their state,
nevertheless these ballots thus actually count for a certain candidate.
At the last election 292 electors voted for McKinley, and 155 for Bryan,
while for the McKinley electors 832,280 more votes were cast than for
the Bryan electors. We have already seen how it is that the best man
will no longer, as in Washington’s time, be unequivocally elected by the
people, and why, although a unanimous choice of President has not taken
place since Washington’s time, nevertheless no more than two candidates
are ever practically in question. It was for this that we have discussed
the parties first. The parties are the factor which makes it impossible
for a President to be elected without a contest, and which, as early as
1797, when the successor of Washington had to be nominated, divided the
people in two sections, the supporters of Jefferson and of Adams. At the
same time, however, the parties prevent the division from going further,
and bring it about that this population of millions of people compactly
organizes itself for Presidential elections in only two groups, so that
although never less than two, still never more than two candidates
really step into the arena.

For both great parties alike, with their central and local committees,
with their professional politicians, with their leaders and their
followers, whether engaging in politics out of interest or in hope of
gain, as an ideal or as sport—for all alike comes the great day when the
President is to be elected. For years previous the party leaders will
have combined and dissolved and speculated and intrigued, and for years
the friends of the possible candidates have spoken loudly in the
newspapers, since here, of course, not only the election but also the
nomination of the candidate depends on the people. Although the election
is in November, the national conventions for nominating the party
candidates come generally in July. Each state sends its delegation,
numbering twice as many as the members of Congress from that state, and
each delegation is once more duly elected by a convention of
representatives chosen by the actual voters out of their party lists. In
these national conventions the great battles of the country are fought,
that is, within the party, and here the general trend of national
politics is determined. It is the great trial moment for the party and
the party heroes. At the last election McKinley and Bryan were the
opposing candidates, and it is interesting to trace in their elections
by the respective conventions two great types of party decision.

McKinley had grown slowly in public favour; he was the accomplished
politician, the interesting leader of Congress, the sympathetic man who
had no enemies. When the Republican convention met at Chicago, in 1888,
he was a member of the delegation from Ohio and was pledged to do his
utmost for the nomination of John Sherman. The ballots were cast five
different times and every time no one candidate was found to have a
majority. On the sixth trial one vote was cast for McKinley, and the
announcement of this vote created an uproar. A sudden shifting of the
opinions took place amid great acclamation, and the delegations all went
over to him. He jumped up on a stool and called loudly through the hall
that he should be offended by any man who voted for him since he himself
had been pledged to vote for Sherman. Finally a compromise was found in
Benjamin Harrison. At the convention in Minneapolis four years later
McKinley was chairman, and once more the temptation came to him. The
opponents of Harrison wished to oppose his re-election by uniting on the
Ohio statesman, and again it was McKinley himself who turned the vote
this time in favour of Harrison. His own time came finally in 1896. In
the national convention at St. Louis 661 votes were cast in the first
ballot for McKinley, while 84 were cast for Thomas Reed, 61 for Quay, 58
for Morton, and 35 for Allison. And when, in 1900, the national
convention met in Philadelphia, 926 votes were straightway cast for
McKinley, and none opposing. His was the steady, sure, and deserved rise
from step to step through tireless exertions for his party and his

Bryan was a young and unknown lawyer, who had sat for a couple of years
in the House of Representatives like any other delegate, and had warmly
upheld bimetallism. At the Democratic national convention at Chicago in
1896 almost nobody knew him. But it was a curious crisis in the
Democratic party. It had been victorious four years previous in its
campaign for Cleveland against Harrison, but the party as such had
enjoyed no particular satisfaction. The self-willed and determined
Cleveland, who had systematically opposed Congress tooth and nail, had
fallen out with his party and nowhere on the horizon had appeared a new
leader. And after a true statesman like Cleveland had come to grief, the
petty politicians, who had neither ideas nor a programme, came to their
own. Every one was looking for a strong personality when Bryan stepped
forth to ingratiate himself and his silver programme in the affections
of his party. His arguments were not new, but his catch-words were well
studied, and here at last stood a fascinating personality with a
forceful temperament which was all aglow, and with a voice that sounded
like the tones of an organ. And when he cried out, “You must not nail
humanity to a cross of gold,” it was as if an omen had appeared. He
became at once the Democratic candidate for the Presidency, and six
months later six and one-half million votes were cast for him against
the seven million for McKinley. Nor did the silver intoxication succumb
to its first defeat. When the Democrats met again in 1900, all the
endeavours of those who had adhered to a gold currency were seen to be
futile. Once again the silver-tongued Nebraskan was carried about in
triumph, and not until its second defeat did the Democratic party wake
up. Bryanism is now a dead issue, and before the next Presidential
election the programme of the Democratic party will be entirely

Thus the presidents of the nation grow organically out of the party
structure, and the parties find in turn their highest duty and their
reward in electing their President. The people organized in a party and
the chief executive which that party elects belong necessarily together.
They are the base and the summit. Nothing but death can overthrow the
decision of the people; death did overthrow, indeed, the last decision
after a few months, in September, 1901, when the cowardly assassination
accomplished by a Polish anarchist brought the administration of
McKinley to an end. As the Constitution provides, the man whom the
people had elected to the relatively insignificant office of
Vice-President became master in the White House.

The Vice-Presidency is from the point of view of political logic the
least satisfactory place in American politics. Very early in the history
of the United States the filling of this office occasioned many
difficulties, and at that time the provisions of the Constitution
referring to it were completely worked over. The Constitution had
originally said that the man who had the second largest number of votes
for the Presidency should become Vice-President. This was conceived in
the spirit of the time when the two-party system did not exist and when
it was expected that the electors should not be restricted by the voting
public in their choice of the best man. As soon, however, as the
opposition between the two parties came into being, the necessary result
of such provision was that the presidential candidate of the defeated
party should become Vice-President, and therefore that President and
Vice-President should always represent diametrically opposed tendencies.
A change in the Constitution did away with this political impossibility.
Each elector was instructed to deposit separate ballots for President
and Vice-President, and that candidate became Vice-President who
received the largest number of votes for that office, both offices being
thus invariably filled by candidates of the same party.

In spite of this the position has developed rather unsatisfactorily for
an obvious reason. The Constitution condemns the Vice-President, so long
as the President holds office, to an ornamental inactivity. It is his
duty to preside at sessions of the Senate, a task which he for the most
part performs silently, and which has not nearly the political
significance enjoyed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. On
the other hand, men still in the prime of life are almost always elected
to the Presidency; the possibility is therefore almost always lost sight
of that the President can die before the expiration of his four years’
term of office. The result has been that less distinguished men, who
have, nevertheless, served their parties, are usually chosen for this
insignificant and passive rôle. The office is designed to be an honour
and a consolation to them, and sometimes for one reason or another their
candidacy is supposed otherwise to strengthen the outlook of the party.
It is not accident that while in the several states the
Lieutenant-Governor is very often the next man to be elected Governor,
it has never so far happened that a Vice-President has been elected to
the Presidency.

Now in the unexpected event of the President’s death a man stands at the
helm whom no one really wants to see there; and it has five times
happened that the chief executive of the nation has died in office, and
four times, indeed, only a few months after being installed, so that the
Vice-President has had to guide the destinies of the country for almost
four years. When Tyler succeeded to the place of Harrison in 1841, there
arose at once unfavourable disputes with the Whig party, which had
elected him. When, after the murder of Lincoln in 1865, Johnson took the
reins, it was his own Republican party which regretted having elected
this impetuous man to the Vice-Presidency; and when, in 1881, after the
assassination of Garfield, his successor, Arthur, undertook the office,
and filled it indeed by no means badly, considerable consternation was
felt throughout the country when people saw that so ordinary a
professional politician was to succeed Garfield, on whom the country had
pinned its faith.

On the death of McKinley a Vice-President succeeded him toward whom, in
one respect at least, the feeling was very different. If ever a man was
born to become President that man was Theodore Roosevelt. Nevertheless,
he had not been elected in expectation of becoming President, and at
first the whole country felt once more that it was a case which had lain
outside of all reasonable calculations. Roosevelt’s friends had asked
him to make a sacrifice and to accept a thankless office because they
knew that his name on the ballot of the Republican party—for his Rough
Rider reputation during the war was still fresh—would be pretty sure to
bring about the election of McKinley. The opponents also of this strong
and energetic young man, against his stoutest protestations, upheld his
candidacy with every means in their power. Firstly because they wanted
to get rid of him as Governor of the State of New York, where he made
life too hard for the regular politicians, and secondly because they
relied on the tradition that holding the Vice-Presidency would
invalidate him as a Presidential candidate in 1904. Neither friends nor
enemies had thought of such a possibility as McKinley’s death.
Roosevelt’s friends had rightly judged; the hero of San Juan did bring
victory to his party. His enemies, on the other hand, had entirely
missed their mark not only on the outcome, but from the very beginning.
Odell became Governor of New York, and quite unexpectedly he stood out
even more stoutly against the political corruptionists. And, on the
other hand, Roosevelt’s impulsive nature quickly found ways to break the
traditional silence of the Vice-President and to keep himself before the
eyes of the world. There is no doubt that in spite of all traditions his
incumbency would have been a preparation for the presidential candidacy.
But when, through the crime committed at Buffalo, everything came out so
differently from that which the politicians expected, it seemed to the
admirers of Roosevelt almost like the tragic hand of fate; he had done
his best to attain on his own account the Presidency, and now it came to
him almost as the gift of chance. Only the next election may be expected
to do him full justice.

The successive moments in his rapid rise are generally known. Roosevelt
was born in New York in 1858, his father being a prosperous merchant and
well-known philanthropist, and a descendant of an old Knickerbocker
family. The son was prepared for college and went to Harvard, where he
made a special study of history and political economy. After that he
travelled in Europe, and when he was still only twenty-four years old,
he plunged into politics. He soon obtained a Republican seat in the
state legislature of New York, and there commenced his tireless fight
for reform in municipal and state administration. In 1889 President
Harrison appointed him Commissioner of the Civil Service, but he
resigned this position in 1895 in order to become Chief of Police in New
York. Only two years later he was once more called from municipal to
national duties. He was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy. All
this time his administrative duties did not interrupt his literary,
historical, and scientific work. He had begun his career as an author
with his studies in the history of the navy and his admirable
biographies of American statesmen. When he was thirty years old he wrote
the first part of his great work, “The Winning of the West,” and often
between the publication of his scientific works he published lesser
books, describing his adventures as huntsman in the primeval wilderness,
and later on volumes in which his social and political essays were

Then the Spanish War arose and the Assistant Secretary could not bear to
sit at his desk while others were moving to the field of battle. He
gathered about him a volunteer regiment of cavalry, in which the
dare-devil cow-punchers of the prairie rode side by side with the
adventurous scions of the most distinguished families in Boston and New
York. Roosevelt’s friend, Wood, of the regular army, became Colonel in
this soon-famous regiment, and Roosevelt himself Lieutenant-Colonel. A
few days after they had successfully stormed the hill at San Juan, Wood
became General and Roosevelt Colonel.

His native State of New York received him on his home-coming with
general rejoicing, and he found himself a few months later Governor of
the State. At Albany he showed tremendous energy, put through popular
reforms, and fought against the encroachments of the industrial
corporations. It had been his personal wish to be Governor for a second
year, but this was denied him by the admirable doings of his Eastern
enemies and Western admirers at the national convention of June, 1900,
held in Pennsylvania, where he was forced to become candidate for the
position of Vice-President. On the 14th of September, 1901, in Buffalo,
he took the Presidential oath of office.

At that time a quiet anxiety for the future was mingled with the honest
sorrow which the whole land felt for the death of McKinley. A nation
which had been sunning itself in peace suddenly found itself under the
leadership of an impulsive colonel of cavalry, who carried in his hand
the banner of war. The nation was in the midst of an economic
development which needed before everything else to have a mature and
careful leader who was honoured and trusted by all classes, and who
would be able to effect some work of reconciliation between them; when
suddenly there stood in the place of a most conservative statesman an
impetuous young man who was not intimately connected with industrial
life, who had for a long time made himself unpopular with party
politicians, and whom even his admirers in the land seemed hardly to
trust on account of his hasty and determined impetuosity. Roosevelt had
been envisaged by the masses, through the cinematograph of the press, in
campaign hat and khaki uniform, just in the attitude of taking San Juan
hill. Nearly everybody forgot that he had for a long time quietly
carried on the exacting labours of Police Commissioner in the largest
city of the country; and forgot how, from his first year of study at
Harvard on, every day had been given to preparing himself for public
service and for acquiring a thorough understanding of all the political,
social, and economic problems which the country had to face; they forgot
also that he had wielded the sword for only a few months, but the pen of
the historian for about two decades. Roosevelt’s first public utterance
was a pledge to continue unchanged the peaceful policy of his
predecessor and always to consider the national prosperity and honour.
Still, people felt that no successor would be able to command that
experience, maturity, and party influence which McKinley had had.

There have been differences of opinion, and, as was to be expected,
complaints and criticisms have come from the midst of his own party. Yet
anyone who looks at his whole administration will see that in those
first years Roosevelt won a more difficult and brilliant victory than he
had won over the Spanish troops.

He had three virtues which especially overcame all small criticism. The
people felt, in the first place, that a moral force was here at work
which was more powerful than any mere political address or diplomatic
subtlety. An immediate ethical force was here felt which owned to ideas
above any party, and set inner ideals above merely outward success.
Roosevelt’s second virtue was courage. A certain purely ethical ideal
exalted above all petty expediencies was for him not only the nucleus of
his own creed, but was also his spring of action; and he took no account
of personal dangers. Here was the keynote of all his speeches—it is not
enough to approve of what is right, it is equally necessary to act for
it fearlessly and unequivocally. Then he went on to his work, and if,
indeed, in complicated political situations the President has had at
times to clinch some points by aid of compromise, nevertheless the
nation has felt with growing confidence that at no serious moment has he
wavered a hair’s breadth from the straight line of his convictions, and
that he has had the courage to disregard everything but what he held to
be right. And, thirdly, Roosevelt had the virtue of being sincere.

McKinley also had purposed to do right, but he had hardly an occasion
for displaying great courage since so incomparably discreet a politician
as he was could avoid every conflict with his associates, and he was
ever the leader on highways which the popular humour had indicated. Thus
the masses never felt that he was at bottom lacking in courage or that
he always put off responsibility on others. The masses did, however,
instinctively feel that McKinley’s astute and kindly words were not
always sincere; his words were often there to conceal something which
was locked up behind his Napoleonic forehead. And now there succeeded
him an enthusiast who brimmed over with plain expressions of what he
felt, and whose words were so convincingly candid and so without
reservation that every one had the feeling of being in the personal
confidence of the President.

There was a good deal more besides his moral earnestness, his courage,
and his frank honesty which contributed to Roosevelt’s entire success.
His lack of prejudice won the lower classes, and his aristocratic
breeding and education won the upper, while the middle classes were
enthusiastic over his sportsmanship. No President had been more
unprejudiced or more truly democratic. He met the poor miner on the same
footing as he met the mine owner; he invited the negro to the White
House; he sat down and broke bread with the cow-boys; and when he
travelled he first shook the sooty hand of the locomotive engineer
before he greeted the gentlemen who had gathered about in their silk
hats. And, nevertheless, he was in many years the first real aristocrat
to become President. The changes in the White House itself were typical.
This venerable Presidential dwelling had been, up to Roosevelt’s time,
in its inner arrangements a dreary combination of bare offices, somewhat
crudely decorated private dwelling, and cheerless reception-halls.
To-day it is a very proper palace, containing many fine works of art,
and office-seekers no longer have access to the inner rooms. His
predecessors, the Clevelands and Harrisons and McKinleys, had been, in
fact, very respectable philistines. They had come from the middle
classes of the country, which are in thought and feeling very different
from that upper class which, up to a short time ago, had bothered itself
less about practical politics than about general culture, literature,
art, criticism, and broadly conceived industrial operations, combined
with social high-life. This class, however, had begun at length to feel
that it ought not to disdain to notice political abuses, to walk around
the sea of troubles; but had begun to take up arms and by opposing end
them. Aristocracy had too long believed in political mercenaries.

Roosevelt was the first to lift himself from these circles and become a
great leader. Not alone the nobility of his character but also of his
culture and traditions was shown in his entire habit of mind. Never in
his speeches or writings has he cited that socially equalizing
Declaration of Independence, and while his speeches at banquets and
small gatherings of scholarly men have been incomparably more
fascinating than his strenuous utterances to the voters, which he has
made on his public tours, it has been often less the originality of his
thoughts and still less the peculiarly taking quality of his delivery,
than the evidences of ripe culture, which seem to pervade his political
thought. Thus the smaller the circle to which he speaks the greater is
his advantage; and in speaking with him personally on serious problems
one feels that distinction of thought, breadth of historical outlook,
and confidence in self have united in him to create a personality after
the grand manner.

The impression which Roosevelt has made on his own country has not been
more profound than his influence on the galaxy of nations. At the very
hour when the United States by their economic and territorial expansion
stepped into the circle of world powers, they had at their head a
personality who, for the first time in decades, had been able to make a
great, characteristic, and, most of all, a dramatic impression on the
peoples of Europe. And if this hour was to be made the most of it was
not enough that this leader should by his impulsiveness and self-will,
by his picturesque gestures and effective utterance, chain the attention
of the masses and excite all newspaper readers, but he must also win the
sympathies of the keener and finer minds, and excite some sympathetic
response in the heads of monarchies. A second Lincoln would never have
been able to do this, and just this was what the moment demanded. The
nation’s world-wide position in politics needed some comparable
expansion in the social sphere. Other peoples were to welcome their new
comrades not only in the official bureau but also in the reception-room,
and this young President had always at his command a graceful word, a
tactful expedient, and a distinguished and hospitable address. He was,
in short, quite the right man.

Any new person taking hold so firmly has to disturb a good many things;
busied with so much, he must overturn a good deal which would prefer to
be left as it was. The honest man has his goodly share of enemies. And
it is not to be denied that Roosevelt has the failings of his virtues,
and these have borne their consequences. Many national dangers, which
are always to be feared from officials of Roosevelt’s type, are largely
obviated by the democratic customs of the country. He lives amid a
people not afraid to tell him the whole truth, and every criticism
reaches his ear. And there is another thing not less important:
democracy forces every man into that line of activity for which the
nation has elected him. A somewhat overactive mind like Roosevelt’s has
opinions on many problems, and his exceptional political position easily
betrays one at first into laying exceptional weight on one’s own
opinions about every subject. But here the traditions of the country
have been decisive; it knows no President for general enlightenment, but
only a political leader whose private opinions outside politics are of
no special importance. In this as in other respects Roosevelt has
profited by experience. There is no doubt that when he came to the White
House he underestimated the power of Senators and party leaders. The
invisible obstructions, which were somehow hidden behind the scenes,
have no doubt given him many painful lessons. In his endeavour to
realize so many heartfelt convictions, he has often met with arbitrary
opposition made simply to let the new leader feel that obstructions can
be put in his way unless he takes account of all sorts of factors. But
these warnings have really done him no harm, for Roosevelt was not the
man to be brought by them into that party subserviency which had
satisfied McKinley. They merely held him back from that reckless
independence which is so foreign to the American party spirit, and which
in the later years of Cleveland’s administration had worked so badly.
Indeed, one might say that the outcome has been an ideal synthesis of
Cleveland’s consistency and McKinley’s power of adaptation.

For the fanatics of party Roosevelt has been, of course, too
independent, while to the opponents of party he has seemed too yielding.
Both of these criticisms have been made, in many different connections,
since everywhere he has stood on a watch tower above the fighting lines
of any party. When in the struggles between capital and labour he
seriously took into account the just grievances of the working-man he
was denounced as a socialist. And when he did not at once stretch out
his hand to demolish all corporations he was called a servant of the
stock exchange. When he appointed officials in the South without
reference to their party allegiance, the Republicans bellowed loudly;
and when he did not sanction the Southern outrages against the negro the
Democrats became furious. When everything is considered, however, he has
observed the maxim of President Hayes, “He best serves his party who
serves his country best.”

In this there has been another factor at work. Roosevelt may not have
had McKinley’s broad experience in legislative matters, nor have known
the reefs and bars in the Congressional sea, but for the executive
office, for the administration of civil service and the army and navy,
for the solution of federal, civil, and municipal problems his years of
study and travel have been an ideal preparation. Behind his practical
training he has had the clear eye of the historian. The United States
had their proverbial good luck when the Mephistos of the Republican
party prevailed on the formidable Governor of New York to undertake the
thankless office of Vice-President. If this nomination had gone as the
better politicians wished it to go, the death of McKinley would have
placed a typical politician at the helm instead of the best President
which the country has had for many years.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The President is closely associated with the Cabinet, and he is entirely
free in his choice of advisers. There is no question here of the
influence of majorities on the composition of the ministry, as there is
in England or France. In this way Cleveland, in his second term, had
already announced by his choice of cabinet ministers that he should go
his own ways regardless of the wire-pullers of the party. He gave the
Secretaryship of War to his former private secretary; the position of
Postmaster-General to his former partner in law; the Secretaryship of
Justice to a jurist who had never taken any interest in politics. His
Secretary of the Interior was a personal friend, and the Secretary of
Foreign Affairs a man who shortly before had left the ranks of the
Republican party to become a Cleveland Democrat. The Secretaryships of
Commerce and the Treasury were the sole cabinet positions which were
given to well-known party leaders. The very opposite was to have been
expected from a man of McKinley’s disposition. Even when he became the
chief executive of the country he remained the devoted servant of his
party, and just as his success was owing in large part to his
sympathetic relations with all the important factions in Congress, so
the success of his Cabinet was due to his having chosen none but men who
had enjoyed for a long time the confidence of the party.

Roosevelt did at the outset an act of political piety when he left the
Cabinet, for the time being, unchanged. It was at the same time a
capital move toward reassuring public opinion, which had stood in fear
of all sorts of surprises, owing to his impetuous temperament. Slowly,
however, characteristic readjustments were made and a new cabinet office
was created under his administration, the Secretaryship of Commerce and
Labour. This was entrusted to Cortelyou, who had been the private
secretary of two presidents, and who, through his tact, discretion, and
industry, had contributed not a little to their practical success.

The highest minister in order of rank is the Secretary of State, who is
the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and who, in the case that both the
President and Vice-President are unable to complete their term of
office, assumes the Presidency. He is responsible for the diplomatic and
consular representation of the United States and he alone negotiates
with representatives of foreign powers at Washington; moreover, it is
through him that the President treats with the separate states of the
Union. He publishes the laws passed by Congress and adds his signature
to all of the President’s official papers. He is, next to the President,
so thoroughly the presiding spirit of the administration that it is
hardly a mistake to compare him to the Chancellor of the German Empire.
It happens at the moment that the present incumbent makes this
comparison still more apt, since John Hay, the present Secretary of
Foreign Affairs, resembles Count von Bülow in several ways. Both have
been in former years closely affiliated to the national heroes of the
century, both have gotten their training in various diplomatic
positions, both are resourceful, accommodating, and brilliant statesmen,
and both have a thoroughly modern temperament, intellectual independence
bred of a broad view of the world, both are apt of speech and have fine
literary feeling. Hay was the secretary of President Lincoln until
Lincoln’s death, and has been secretary of the embassies in France,
Austria, and Spain, has taken distinguished place in party politics, has
been Assistant Secretary of State, Ambassador to England, and in 1898
was placed at the head of foreign affairs. His “Ballads,” “Castilian
Days,” and “Life of Lincoln,” call to mind his literary reputation.

How far foreign affairs are really conducted by the President and how
far by the Secretary of State is, of course, hard to say, but, at any
rate, the representatives of foreign powers treat officially only with
the Secretary, who has his regular days for diplomatic consultation, so
that the relations of foreign representatives to the President, after
their first official introduction, remain virtually social. Yet all
important measures are undertaken only with the approval of the
President, and on critical questions of international politics the whole
cabinet deliberates together. Hay’s personal influence came clearly
before the public eye especially in his negotiations regarding the
Central American canal, and in his handling of the Russian and Asiatic
problems. Particularly after the Chinese imbroglio he came to be
generally reputed the most astute and successful statesman of the day.
It will probably not be far wrong to ascribe such tendencies in American
politics as are friendly toward England chiefly to his influence. On the
other hand, he is supposed to feel no special leanings toward Germany.

The Secretary of the Treasury is next in rank. He administers the
Federal finances to all intents and purposes like a large banker, or,
rather, like a bank president who should have Congress for his board of
directors. Since customs and international revenues are levied by the
Federal Government, and not by the several states, and since the
expenditures for the army and navy, for the postal service, and for the
Federal Government itself, the national debt and the mints come under
Federal administration, financing operations are involved which are so
extensive as to have a deciding influence on the banking system of the
entire country.

The third official in rank is the Secretary of War, while the Secretary
of the Navy holds only the sixth place, with the Attorney-General and
the Postmaster-General in between. The General Staff of the Secretary of
War, which was organized in 1903, is composed of officers of high rank,
although the Secretary himself is a civilian. In the case of the army,
as well as of the navy, the functions of the secretary are decidedly
more important than those, say, of a Prussian Minister. They concern not
only administration, but also, in case of war, are of decisive weight on
the movements of all the forces, since the President as
commander-in-chief has to act through these ministers. Elihu Root was
for almost five years Secretary of War; and on his retirement in
January, 1904, Roosevelt declared: “Root is the greatest man who has
appeared in our times in the public life of any country, either in the
New World or the Old.”

The position of Attorney-General is less comparable with a corresponding
office in the German state. This minister of the President has no
influence on the appointment of judges or the administration of the
courts. The official representative of justice in the Cabinet is really
an exalted lawyer, who is at the same time the President’s legal
adviser. So far as appointments to office go, the Secretary of the Post
Office Department has practically no influence regarding those who are
under him, since the tremendous number of postal officials of any
considerable importance have to be confirmed in their appointments by
the Senate, so that the appointing power has virtually gone over to that
body. On the other hand, the whole postal service is under his
direction; but it is here not to be forgotten that the American
railroads and, what the German may think more extraordinary, the
telegraph lines, are not government property.

The Secretary of the Interior is merely a name for a great many
unrelated administrative functions. In the long list of duties which
fall to this office comes education, although this seemingly most
important responsibility is really rather slight, since all educational
matters fall to the separate states and the Federal Government has
nothing to do but to give out statistics and information, to collect
material, and to offer advice. The national Bureau of Education is not
empowered to institute any practical changes. A much more important
function, practically, of the Secretary of the Interior is the Pension
Bureau, since the United States pay yearly about $138,000,000 in
pensions. Other divisions are the Patent Office, which grants every year
about 30,000 patents, the Railroad Bureau, the Indian Bureau, and the
Geological Survey. The Secretary of Agriculture has not only certain
duties connected with agriculture, but is also in charge of the Weather
Bureau, and of zoölogical, botanical, and chemical institutes, and
especially of the large number of scientific departments which
indirectly serve the cause of agriculture. Last in rank comes the
recently created Secretary of Commerce and Labour, who has charge of the
Corporation Bureau, the Labour Bureau, the Census Bureau, and the
Bureaus of Statistics, Immigration, and Fisheries.

There are some 240,000 positions under the direction of these ministers;
and all of these, from ambassadors to letter-carriers, are in the
national service and under the appointment of the President, and are
entirely independent of the government of the separate states in which
the offices are held.

                              CHAPTER FOUR

There is an avenue which leads from the White House in a direct line to
the Capitol, the dominating architectural feature of Washington. On
walking up the broad terraces one comes first to the great central hall,
over which rises the dome; to the right one passes through the Hall of
Fame and comes finally to the uncomfortably large parliamentary chamber,
in which 386 Representatives sit together as the direct delegates of the
people. Going from the central hall to the left one passes by the
apartments of the Supreme Court, and comes finally to the attractive
room in which the ninety state delegates hold their sessions. The room
on the right is called the “House,” on the left the Senate; both
together make up Congress, the law-giving body of the nation. When the
thirteen states which first formed the Union in the year 1778 adopted
the Articles of Federation, it was intended that Congress should be a
single body, in which each state, although it might be represented by a
varying number of members, should nevertheless have the right to only
one vote. Nine years later, however, the final Constitution of the
United States replaced this one simple system by dividing Congress into
Senate and House of Representatives, doing this simply by analogy with
the traditions of the state governments. Pennsylvania was the only state
which had but one legislative chamber, while the others had taken over
from England the system of double representation and had carried out the
English tradition, although probably nothing was further from their
intention than to divide their legislators into lords and commoners.

For the United States the dual division inevitably seemed the shortest
way to balance off conflicting requirements. On the one side every
state, even the smallest, should have the same prerogatives and equal
influence: on the other side, every citizen must count as much as every
other, so that the number of inhabitants must be duly represented. It
was necessary, therefore, to create one chamber in which all States
should have the same number of Representatives, and another in which
every delegate should represent an equal number of voters. Furthermore,
on the one hand a firm and conservative tradition was to be built up,
while on the other the changing voice of the people was to be reflected.
It was, therefore, necessary to remove one chamber from popular election
and leave it to the appointment of the separate state legislatures. It
was also necessary to put the age for candidacy for this chamber high,
and to make the term of office rather long, and finally to contrive that
at any one time only a fraction of the numbers should be replaced, so
that a majority of the members could carry on their work undisturbed.
The other chamber, however, was to be completely replaced by frequent
direct popular elections. Thus originated the two divisions of Congress
which so contrast in every respect. A comparison with European double
legislative systems is very natural, and yet the Senate is neither a
Bundestag, nor a Herrenhaus, nor a House of Lords; and the House of
Representatives is fundamentally different from the Reichstag. One who
wishes to understand the American system must put aside his
recollections of European institutions, since nothing except emphasis on
the difference between the American and European legislatures will make
clear the traditions of Washington.

As has been said, the Senators are representatives of the several
states; every state sends two. The State of New York, with its seven
million inhabitants, has no more representatives in the Senate than the
State of Wyoming, which has less than one hundred thousand inhabitants.
Every Senator is elected for six years by the law-giving body of the
individual state. Every second year a third of the Senators retire, so
that the Senate as a whole has existed uninterruptedly since the
foundation of the Union. Curiously enough, however, the Senators vote
independently, and thus it often happens that the two Senators from one
State cast opposite votes. A candidate for the Senate has to be thirty
years old.

The members of the House are elected every two years and by direct
popular vote. The number of delegates is here not prescribed by the
Constitution. It is constantly modified on the basis of the ten-year
census, since every state is entitled to a number of delegates
proportionate to its population. While there were slaves, who could not
vote, the slave states nevertheless objected to the diminution in the
number of their representatives, due to the fact that the negro was not
considered an inhabitant, and it was constitutionally provided to
compute the number of Representatives on the basis that every slave was
equivalent to three-fifths of a man. To-day neither colour nor race
constitutionally affects the right to vote. On the other hand, the
nation as such does not concern itself to consider who is allowed to
vote, but leaves this completely to the different states, and requires
only that for the national elections in every state the same provisions
are observed which are made for the elections to the state legislature.
Moreover, it is left to every state in what wise it shall choose the
allotted number of Representatives at Washington. Thus, for instance, in
those four Western States in which women are allowed to vote for members
of the legislature, women have also the right to vote for Congressmen.

The first House of Representatives had 65 members, while the House of
1902 had 357, and the political centre of gravity of the country has so
shifted that the states which originally made up Congress send now only
137 of the members. The number of delegates has recently been increased
to 386. The age of candidacy is 25, and while a Senator must have lived
in the country for nine years, only seven years are required of a

The differences in the conditions of election are enough to bring it
about that the personal make-up of the two Houses, as had been
originally intended, give very different impressions. The dignity of
being Senator is granted to but few, and to these for a long time, and
as it is bestowed by that somewhat small circle of the legislators of
the state, is naturally accounted the highest political honour; it is
thus desired by the most successful leaders of public life and the most
respected men of the several states. The ideal condition is, to be sure,
somewhat frustrated, since in reality the members of a state legislature
are generally pledged, when they themselves are elected, to support this
or that particular candidate for the Senate. Thus the general body of
voters exerts its influence after all pretty directly; and, moreover,
this distinction depends not a little, in the West and especially in the
thinly populated states, on the possession of great wealth. Since,
however, in these cases such wealth has generally been won by
exceptional energy and keen insight, even in this way men come to
Washington who are a good deal above the average voter, and who
represent the most significant forces in American popular life
earnestly, worthily, and intelligently.

In the last Senate the average age of ninety Senators was sixty years,
and seventeen were more than seventy years old. Sixty-one of them were
jurists, eighteen were business men, three were farmers, and two had
been journalists. As to the jurists, they are not men who are still
active as attorneys or judges. Generally men are in question who went
over early from the legal profession into politics, and who have lived
almost entirely in politics. Indeed, not a few of these lawyers who have
become legislators have been for some years in commercial life at the
head of great industrial or railroad corporations, so that the majority
of jurists is no indication whatsoever of any legal petrifaction. All
sides of American life are represented, and only such professions as
that of the university scholar or that of the preacher are virtually
excluded because circumstances make it necessary for the Senator to
spend six winters in Washington. It will be seen that politics must have
become a life profession with most of these men, since many are elected
four and five times to the Senate. Among the best known Senators,
Allison, Hoar, Cockrell, Platt, Morgan, Teller, and several others have
been there for more than twenty-five years. Of course the conservative
traditions of the Senate are better preserved by such numerous
re-elections than by any possible external provision.

It is also characteristic of the composition of the Senate that, with a
single exception, no Senator was born on the European continent. Nelson,
the Senator from Minnesota, came from Norway when he was a boy. Thus in
this conservative circle there is little real representation of the
millions who have immigrated to this country. In the autobiographies of
the Senators, two relate that, although they were born in America, they
are of German descent; these are Wellington, the Senator from Maryland,
and Dietrich, the Senator from Nebraska. The Senators are notoriously
well-to-do, and have been called the “Millionaires’ Club”; and yet one
is not to suppose that these men have the wealth of the great industrial
magnates. Senator Clarke, of Montana, whose property is estimated at one
hundred million dollars, is the single one who, according to American
standards, could be called rich. Most of the others have merely a few
modest millions, and for many the expensive years of residence in
Washington are a decided sacrifice. And, most of all, it is certain that
the Senators who are materially the least well-off are among the most
respected and influential. The most highly educated member of the Senate
would probably be the young delegate from Massachusetts, the historian
Lodge, who is the President’s most intimate friend; but the most worthy
and dignified member has been the late Senator from Massachusetts, the
impressive orator, Hoar.

It is a matter of course that the social level of the House of
Representatives lies considerably lower. Here it is intended that the
people shall be represented with all their diverse interests and
ambitions. The two-thirds majority of lawyers is found, however, even
here; of the 357 members of the last House, 236 had been trained in law,
63 were business men, and 17 were farmers. The House is again like the
Senate, since, in spite of the fact that the membership is elected
entirely anew, it remains in good part made up of the same people. The
fifty-eighth Congress contained 250 members who had already sat in the
fifty-seventh. About one-tenth of the Representatives have been in the
House ten years. The general physiognomy is, however, very different
from that of the Senate. It is more youthful, less serene and
distinguished, and more suggestive of ordinary business. The average age
is forty-eight years, while there are some men under thirty. The total
impression, in spite of several exceptions, suggests that these men come
from the social middle class. However, it is from just this class that
the notably clear-cut personalities of America have come; and the number
of powerful and striking countenances to be seen in the House is greater
than that in the German Reichstag. The Representatives, like Senators,
have a salary of $5,000 and their travelling expenses.

What is now the actual work of these two chambers in Congress, and how
do they carry it on? The work cannot be wholly separated from its manner
of performance. Perhaps the essentials of this peculiar task and method
could be brought together as follows: on the basis of committee reports,
Congress decides whether or not to accept bills which have been proposed
by its members. This is indeed the main part of the story. Congress thus
passes on proposed bills; its function is purely legislative, and
involves nothing of an executive nature. On the other hand, these bills
have to be proposed by members of Congress; they cannot be received from
the President or from members of his Cabinet. Thus the Executive has no
influence in the law-giving body. The method of transacting business,
finally, consists of laying the emphasis on the deliberations in
committees, and it is there that the fate of each bill is virtually
settled. The committee determines whether the proposed measure shall
come before the whole House; and both House and Senate have finally to
decide about accepting the measure. Each of these points requires
further comment.

So far as the separation of the legislative and executive functions of
the government is concerned, it is certainly exaggeration to say that it
is complete, as has often been said. There is, to be sure, a somewhat
sharper distinction than is made in Germany, where the propositions of
the Executive form the basis of legislative activity; and yet even in
the United States the ultimate fate of every measure is dependent on the
attitude taken by the President. We have seen that a bill which is sent
by Congress to the President can be returned with his veto, and in that
case becomes a law only when on a new vote in both Houses it receives a
two-thirds majority. A law which obtains only a small majority in either
one of the Houses can thus easily be put aside by the Executive.

On the other hand, Congress has a very important participation in
executive functions, more particularly through the Senate, inasmuch as
all appointments of federal officers and the ratification of all
treaties require the approval of the Senate. International politics,
therefore, make it necessary for the President to keep closely in touch
with at least the Senate, and in the matter of appointments the right of
the Senators to disapprove is so important that for a large number of
local positions the selection has been actually left entirely to the
Senators of the respective states. The Constitution gives to Congress
even a jurisdictional function, in the case that any higher federal
officers abuse their office. When there is a suspicion of this, the
House of Representatives brings its charges and the Senate conducts the
trial. The last time that this great machinery was in operation was in
1876, when the Secretary of War, Belknap, was charged and acquitted;
thus suspicion has not fallen on any of the higher officials for
twenty-eight years.

The separation of the Legislative from the Executive is most
conspicuously seen in the fact that no member of the Cabinet has a seat
in Congress. At the beginning of the Congressional session the President
sends his message, in which he is privileged politically to pour out his
entire heart. Yet he may only state his hopes and desires, and may not
propose definite bills. The Cabinet ministers, however, are responsible
solely to the President, and in no wise to Congress, where they have no
right to discuss measures either favourably or unfavourably. They do not
come into contact with Congress. This is in extreme contrast with the
situation in England, where the ministers are leaders of the
Parliamentary party. The American sees in this a strong point of his
political system, and even such a man as the former ambassador to
Germany, Andrew D. White, who admired so much of what he saw there,
considers the ministerial benches in the German and French
representative chambers a mistake. It occasions, he says, a constant and
vexatious disagreement between the delegates of the people and the
ministers, which disturbs the order and effectiveness of parliamentary
transactions. The legislative work should be transacted apart, and the
popular representatives ought to have only one another to take care of.

We must not, however, understand that there are practically no relations
existing between Congress and the ministry. A considerable part of the
bills, which have to be discussed, consist, of course, in appropriations
for public expenditures, so far as these come out of the federal rather
than the state treasuries. Such appropriations included at the last time
$139,000,000 for pensions, $138,000,000 for the post office, $91,000,000
for the army, $78,000,000 for the navy, $26,000,000 for rivers and
harbours, and so on; making in all $800,000,000 for the annual
appropriations, besides $253,000,000 for special contracts. Thus the
total sum of appropriations in one session of Congress amounted to over
$1,000,000,000, in America called a billion. This authorized
appropriation has to be made on the basis of proposals, submitted by the
members of Congress; but it is a matter of course that every single
figure of such propositions has to come originally from the bureau of
the army or navy, or whatever department is concerned, if it is to serve
as the basis of discussion. Thus while the Executive presents to
Congress no proposals for the budget, it hands over to the members of
Congress so empowered the whole material; and this is, after all, not
very different from the European practice. However, the voice of the
Executive is indeed not heard when the budget is under debate. The
members of Congress who are to receive the ministerial propositions
through mediation of the Treasury, must belong to the House; for one of
the few advantages which the House of Representatives has over the
Senate is that it has to initiate all bills of appropriation. This is a
remnant of the fundamental idea that all public expenditures should be
made only at the instance of the taxpayers themselves, wherefore the
directly elected members of the House are more fitted for this than are
the Senators, who are indirectly elected. This single advantage is less
than it looks to be, since the Senate may amend at will all bills of
appropriation that it receives from the House.

Thus every measure which is ever to become law must be proposed by
members of Congress. One can see that this privilege of proposing bills
is utilized to the utmost, from the simple fact that during every
session some fifteen thousand bills are brought out. We may here
consider in detail the way in which the House transacts its affairs. It
is clear that if more than three hundred voluble politicians are set to
the task of deliberating in a few months on fifteen thousand laws,
including all proposed appropriations, that a perfect babel of argument
will arise which can lead to no really fruitful result, unless sound
traditions, strict rules and discipline, and autocratic leadership hold
this chaotic body within bounds. The American instinct for organization
introduced indeed long ago a compact orderliness. Here belongs first of
all that above-mentioned committee system, which in the House is
completed by the unique institution of the Speaker. But one thing we
must constantly bear in mind: the whole background of Congressional
doings is the two-party system. If the House or the Senate were to break
out in the prismatic variegation of the German parliamentary parties, no
speaker and no system of committees would be able to keep the elements
in hand. It is, after all, the party in majority which guarantees order,
moulds the committees into effective machines, and lends to the Speaker
his extraordinary influence.

The essential feature of the whole apparatus lies in the fact that a
bill cannot come up before the House until it has been deliberated in
committee. The chairman of the committee then presents it personally at
some meeting. The presiding officer, the so-called Speaker, exerts in
this connection a threefold influence; firstly, he appoints the members
of all the committees, of which, for instance, there were in the last
Congress sixty-three. The most important, and, therefore, the largest,
of these committees are those on appropriations, agriculture, banking,
coinage, foreign and Indian affairs, interstate and foreign commerce,
pensions, the post office, the navy, railroads, rivers and harbours,
patents, and finance. Both the majority and minority parties are
represented in every committee, and its chairman has almost unlimited
control in its transaction of business. All members of the more
important committees are experienced men, who have been well schooled in
the traditions of the House.

The Speaker is allowed further to decide as to what committee each bill
shall be referred. In many cases, of course, there is no choice; but it
not seldom happens that there are several possibilities, and the
decision between them often determines the fate of the bill. In the
third place, the Speaker, as chairman of the Committee on Rules, decides
what reports, of those which have been so far prepared by the
committees, shall come up for discussion at each meeting of the House.
As soon as the committee has agreed on recommendations, its report is
put on the calendar; but whether it then comes up for debate in the
House depends on a good many factors. In the first place, of course,
many of the proposed matters take naturally first rank, as for instance,
the appropriations. The chairman of the Committee on Appropriations is
given the floor whenever he asks for it; thus there are express trains
on this Congressional railroad which have the right-of-way before
suburban trains, and then, too, there are special trains which take
preference before everything else. But aside from such committee reports
as are especially privileged, a very considerable opportunity of
selection exists among those which remain.

It is here that the really unlimited influence of the Speaker comes in.
He is in no way required to give the floor to the committees which ask
for it first. If the chairman of the committee is not called on by the
Speaker for his report, he is said to be not “noticed” and he is
helpless. Of course, whether he is noticed or not depends on the most
exact prearrangement. If now a bill is finally reported to the House, it
is still not allowed an endless debate, for the Speaker is once more
empowered to appoint a particular time when the debate must end, and
thereby he is able to come around any efforts at obstruction. If,
however, the minority wishes to make itself heard by raising the point
of no quorum, then not only those who are voting, but all those who are
present in the House, are counted, and if these are not enough the
delinquents can be hunted out and forced to come in. But in most cases
there is little or no debate, and the resolutions of the committee are
accepted by the House without a word. In certain of the most important
cases, as in matters of appropriation or taxation, the House constitutes
itself a so-called committee of the whole. Then the matter is seriously
discussed under a special chairman, as at the session of an ordinary
committee. Even here it is not the custom to make long speeches, and the
members are often contented with a short sketch of their arguments, and
ask permission to have the rest published in the Congressional Report.
The speeches which thus have never been delivered are printed and
distributed in innumerable copies through the district from which that
speaker comes and elsewhere as well.

Thus if an ordinary Representative proposes a measure, which perhaps
expresses the local wishes of his district, such a bill goes first to
the Secretary and from him to the Speaker. He refers it to a special
committee, and at the same time every Representative receives printed
copies of it. The committee decides whether the bill is worth
considering. If it has the good fortune to be deliberated by the
committee it is often so amended by the members that little remains of
its original substance. If it then has the further good fortune to be
accepted by the committee, it comes on the House calendar, and waits
until the Committee on Rules puts it on the order of the day. If it then
has the exceptional good fortune of being read to the House it has a
fairly good chance of being accepted.

But of course its pilgrimage is not ended here. It passes next to the
Senate, and goes through much the same treatment once more; first a
committee, then the quorum. If it does not there come up before the
quorum, it is lost in spite of everything; but if it does finally come
up, after all hindrances, it may be amended once more by the Senate. If
this happens, as is likely, its consideration is begun all over again. A
composite committee from both Houses considers all amendments, and if it
cannot come to an agreement the measures are doomed. If the committee
does agree, the close of the session of Congress may intervene and
prevent its last hearing in the House, and in the next Congress the
whole process is repeated. But if a measure has passed through all these
dangers and been approved by both Houses, the President then has the
opportunity to put his veto on it.

Thus it comes about that hardly a tenth part of the bills which are
introduced each year ever become laws, and that they are sifted out and
amended surely and speedily. Indeed, it can hardly be doubted that a
large part of the fifteen thousand bills are introduced out of personal
consideration for constituents, or even out of less worthy motives, with
no expectation that they will possibly be accepted. Moreover, the
popular tribunal, the House, spares itself too great pains, because it
knows that the Senate will certainly amend all its provisions; and the
Senate indulges itself in voting unnecessary favours to constituents
because it relies on their negation by the House.

The Senate works on fundamentally the same plan. When a Senator brings
his proposition, it goes likewise to the appropriate committee, then is
read before a quorum, and is passed on to the other chamber.
Nevertheless, there is a considerable difference in procedure; the House
behaves like a restless popular gathering, while the Senate resembles a
conference of diplomats. The House is a gigantic room, in which even the
best orators can hardly make themselves heard, and where hundreds are
writing or reading newspapers without paying any attention to the man
who speaks. But the Senate is a parliamentary chamber, where a somewhat
undue formality prevails. A strict discipline has to be observed in the
House in order to preserve its organization, while the Senate needs no
outward discipline because the small circle of elderly gentlemen
transacts its business with perfect decorum. Thus the Senate tolerates
no Speaker over it, no president with discretionary powers. In the
Senate both parties have the right to appoint the members of the
committees. The Chairman of the Senate must also not fail to notice any
one who asks for the floor; whoever wishes to speak has every chance,
and this freedom implies of course that the debates shall not be
arbitrarily terminated by the Chairman. A debate can be closed only by
unanimous consent. The influence of the Chairman of the Senate is,
therefore, only a shadow beside that of the Speaker, and since the
Chairman is not elected by the Senate itself, but is chosen directly by
the people in the person of the Vice-President of the United States, it
may happen that this Chairman belongs to the party in minority, and that
he has practically no influence at all. Conformably with the extreme
formality and courtesy of the Senate, majorities are counted on the
basis of the votes actually cast, and not, as in the House, on the basis
of members actually present. For both Houses alike it is possible for
those who intend to be absent to be paired off beforehand, so that if
one absentee has announced himself for, and another against, a certain
bill, they can both be counted as having voted.

It is clear what the consequences of this unlimited exchange of
Senatorial courtesy must be; the concessions in outward form must lead
immediately to compromises and tacit understandings. If a debate can be
closed only by unanimous agreement, it is possible for a single opposing
politician to obstruct the law-making machinery. A handful of opponents
can take the stand for weeks and block the entire Senate. Such
obstructionist policy has to be prevented at any cost, and therefore on
all sides and in every least particular friendly sympathy must be
preserved. Of course, the opposition between the two parties cannot be
obviated; so much the more, then, it is necessary for each man to be
bound by personal ties to every other, and to feel sure of having a free
hand in his own special interests so long at least as he accords the
same right to others in theirs. Thus, merely from the necessity of
preserving mutual good feeling, it too often happens that the other
members close their eyes when some willing Senator caters to local greed
or to the special wishes of ambitious persons or corporations, by
proposing a Congressional bill.

This “Senatorial courtesy” is most marked in the matter of the
appointment of officials, where matters go smoothly only because it has
been agreed that no proposals shall be made without the approval of the
Senators of the state concerned. Every Senator knows that if to-day one
local delegate is outvoted, the rebellion may to-morrow be directed
against another; and thus many a doubtful appointment, given as hush
money or as a reward for mean political services, is approved with
inward displeasure by courteous colleagues merely in order to save the
principle of individual omnipotence. There is no doubt that in this way
the individual Senator comes to have much more power than does a single
Representative. The latter is really the member of a party, with no
special opportunities for satisfying his individual wishes; while the
Senator may have his personal points of view, and is really an
independent factor.

If to-day the Senate, contrary to the expectation of former times,
really plays a much more important rôle before the public than the
House, this is probably not because more important functions are given
to the Senate, but because it is composed of persons of whom every one
has peculiar significance in the political situation, while the House is
nothing but a mass-meeting with a few leaders. This increased importance
before the public eye works back again on the Senator’s opinion of
himself, and the necessary result is a steady increase in the Senate’s
aspirations and the constant growth of its rights. Perhaps the most
characteristic exhibition of this has been the gradual evolution of the
part taken by the Senate in the matter of foreign treaties. The
Constitution requires the ratification of the Senate, and the original
construction was that the Administration should present a treaty all
made out, which the Senate had to accept or reject as it stood. But soon
the Senate arrogated to itself the right to amend treaties, and then it
came about that the Senate would never accept a treaty without injecting
a few drops of its own diplomatic wisdom. It might be that these would
be merely a change of wording, but just enough to let the President feel
the Senatorial power. The result has been that the treaties that are now
presented to the Senate are called nothing but proposals.

Looking behind the scenes one discovers that at bottom, even in the
Senate, only a few have real influence. The more recently appointed
Senators earn their spurs in unimportant committees, and even if they
get into more important ones they are constrained by tradition to fall
in line behind the more experienced members. In the House there is half
a dozen, and in the Senate perhaps a dozen men who shape the politics of
the country. Here, as in all practical matters, the American is ready to
submit to an oligarchical system so long as he knows that the few in
question derive their power from the free vote of the many. In fact
nothing but oligarchy is able to satisfy the profoundly conservative
feeling of the American. Behind the scenes one soon discovers also that
the Senatorial courtesy, which neutralizes the party fanaticism and
encourages compromises to spring up like mushrooms, still leaves room
for plenty of fighting; and even intrigue thrives better on this
unctuous courtesy than in the coarser soil of the lower house. The
sanctified older Senators, such as Allison, Frye, Platt, Aldrich, and
Hale, know where to place their levers so as to dislodge all opposition.
Perhaps McKinley’s friend, Hanna, who was the grand virtuoso in
Republican party technique, knew how always to overcome such political
intrigue; but even Roosevelt’s friend, Lodge, has sometimes found that
the arbitrarily shaped traditions of the seniors weigh more than the
most convincing arguments of the younger men.

The moral level of Congress is, in the judgment of its best critics,
rather high. The fate of every one of the thousands of bills is settled
virtually in a small committee, and thus, time after time, the weal and
woe of entire industries or groups of interests depend on one or two
votes in the committee. The possible openings for corruption are thus
much greater in Congress than in any other parliament, since no other
has carried the committee system to such a point. In former times
political scoundrels went around in great numbers through the hotels in
Washington and even in the corridors of the Capitol trying to influence
votes with every device of bribery. To be sure, it is difficult to prove
that there are no such hidden sins to-day; but it is the conviction of
those who are best able to judge that nothing of the sort any longer
exists. To be sure, there are still lobbyists in Washington, who as a
matter of business are trying to work either for or against impending
bills, but direct bribery is no longer in question. On the slightest
suspicion the House itself proceeds to an investigation and appoints a
committee, which has the right of collecting sworn testimony; and time
after time these suspicions have been found to be unjust.

A different verdict, however, would have to be passed if only that
delegate were to be called morally upright who surveys every question
from the point of view of the welfare of the entire nation; for then
indeed the purity of Congress will be by no means free from doubt. Few
Americans, however, would recognize such a political standard. When
great national questions come up for discussion Congress has always
shown itself equal to the occasion, and when the national honour is at
stake, as it was during the Spanish War, party lines no longer exist;
but when the daily drift of work has to be put through it is the duty of
every man to uphold as obstinately as possible the interests of his
constituency. Especially the political interests of his party then
become predominant, and, seen from a higher point of view, there are no
doubt many sins committed in this direction. Many a measure is given its
quietus by one party, not because of any real inexpediency, but simply
in order to embarrass the other party, to tie up the Administration, and
thus to weaken the hopes of that party at the next election. In recent
years such party tactics on both sides have prevailed time after time.
Most frequently it is the present minority, under its leader, Senator
Gorman, which has resorted to this policy and held out against the most
reasonable propositions of the Republicans, simply because these
measures would have increased the Republican respect before the nation.

On the other hand, party lines are all the time being broken through by
these or those local interests, and any one observing the distribution
of votes cast in the House will see clearly how, oftentimes, the parties
mingle while the issue lies perhaps between two different geographical
sections. When oleomargarine is the order of the day the representatives
of the farming districts are lined up against those from industrial
sections. If it is a question of getting Congress to approve the great
irrigation measures, whole troops of Democrats hasten to forget that,
according to their fundamental principles, such an undertaking belongs
to the state, and not to the federal, government; the representatives
from all the Democratic states which are to be benefited by such
irrigation, fall into sweet accord with the Republicans. Thus the party
divisions are all the time being forgotten for the moment, and it looks
as if this weakening of party bonds were on the increase. By supporting
his party principles each Congressman assists toward the next victory of
his party, but by working for the interests of his locality he is surer
of his own renomination. The requirement that a candidate must reside in
the district that elects him naturally strengthens his consideration for
the selfish claims of his constituency. Thus it is only at notable
moments that the popular representative stands above all parties; he
generally stands pat with his own party, and if the voters begin to nod
he may take his stand somewhat below the parties.

Yet, on looking at Congress as a whole, one has the impression that it
accomplishes a tremendous amount of work, and in a more sober,
business-like, and efficient way than does any other parliament in the
world. There is less talking against time; in fact, there is less
talking of any kind, and because the Administration is not represented
at all there is less fighting. The transactions as a whole are therefore
somewhat less exciting; a single Congressman has less opportunity to
become personally famous. Yet no American would desire to introduce a
ministerial bench at the Capitol, or to have the next Congress adopt
Austrian, French, German, or English methods.

                              CHAPTER FIVE

Going from the hall beneath the central dome of the Capitol toward the
Senate, in the left wing one passes by an extraordinary room, in which
there is generally a crowd of people. The nine judges of the federal
court, the Supreme Court of the United States, are sitting there in
their black gowns, between Greek columns. The President and his Cabinet,
the Senate, and the House of Representatives fill the American with a
pride which is tempered by some critical judgment on this or that
feature, or perhaps by a lively party dissatisfaction. But every
American who is competent to judge looks on the Supreme Court with
unqualified admiration. He knows very well that no force in the country
has done more for the peace, prosperity, and dignity of the United
States. In the constitutional make-up of the Federal Government, the
Supreme Court is the third division, and co-ordinate with the
Legislative and the Executive departments.

The jurisprudence of a nation forms a totality; and therefore it will
not do to discuss the work of the nine men sitting at the Capitol,
without throwing at least a hasty glance at the administration of
justice throughout this enormous country. There is hardly anything more
confusing to a European; and while the Englishman finds many features
which are reminiscent of English law, the German stands helpless before
the complicated situation. It is, most of all, the extreme diversity of
methods which disquiets him. It will be quite impossible to give here
even a superficial picture of the machinery of justice. A few hints must
suffice at this point, while we shall consider many features in other
connections, especially in discussing social problems.

The jurisprudence adopted by the United States comes from three sources.
The average American, on being asked what the law of his country is,
would say that it is “common law.” If we except the State of Louisiana,
which by a peculiarity has the Napoleonic Code, this reply suffices for
a rough idea. But if a German, having in mind perhaps the two German law
books, the penal and the civil codes, both of which he can put so easily
into his pocket, were to ask after some formulation of the common law,
he would be shown a couple of huge bookcases with several hundred stout
volumes. Common law is not a law book, nor is it a system of abstract
formulations, nor yet a codification of the prevailing ideas of justice.
It is, in fact, the sum total of judicial decisions. The establishment
of common law signifies that every new case as it comes up is decided in
conformity with previous decisions. The earlier decision may be a bad
one, and very much offend one’s sense of justice; but if no superior
authority has annulled it, it becomes historic law and determines the
future course of things. American law came originally from the English.
The early English colonists brought with them across the ocean the ideas
of the English judges, and the states which have sprung up lately have
taken their law from the thirteen original states. If to-day, in Boston
or San Francisco, any one finds a piece of jewelry on the street and
another snatches it from him, he can have the thief arrested, although
the object found is not his property. The judge will decide that he has
a right to the object which he has found until the original owner
appears, and the judge will so decide because in the year 1722 a London
chimney-sweep found a valuable ornament, out of which a jeweler later
stole a precious stone; and the English judge decided in favour of the

The disadvantages of such a system are obvious. Instead of a single book
of law embodying the will of the nation, the decisions handed down by
single insignificant judges in different parts of the world, decisions
which originated under wholly other states of civilization and from
other traditions, still have final authority. Again and again the judge
has to adapt himself to old decisions, against which his sense of right
morally rebels. Yet the deep, ethical motive behind this legal system is
certainly plainly evident. The Anglo-Saxon would say that a national
code cannot be constructed arbitrarily and artificially. Its only source
is in the careful, responsible decisions given down by the accredited
representatives of the public will in actual disputes which have arisen.
There is no right or wrong, he would say, until two persons disagree and
make a settlement necessary, and the judge who decides the case creates
the right with the help of his own conscience; but as soon as he has
given his decision, and it is set aside by no higher authority, the
principle of the decision becomes justice for all times. Every day sees
new formulations of justice, because new conflicts between human wills
are always arising and require new settlements; but up to the moment
when a decision is made there exist only two conflicting desires
existing in the matter, but nothing which could be called justice.

Although it seems at first sight as if a legal system, which is composed
of previous decisions, would soon become antiquated and petrified, the
Anglo-Saxon would say with firm conviction that just such justice is the
only one which can be living, because it springs not out of
rationalistic preconceptions, but from actual experience. The
Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence is full of historical reality and of
picturesque individuality. It has grown as organically as language, and
is, in the estimation of the Anglo-Saxon, as much superior to a mere
code as the ordinary speech of a people, in spite of all its historical
inconsistencies, is superior to an artificially constructed speech like
Volapük. And he would find many other points of superiority. He would
say, for instance, that this is the only system which gives to every man
on the judge’s bench the serious sense of his responsibility; for the
judge knows that in every case which he decides, he settles not only the
fortunes of James and John there present, but he influences for all
times the conception of justice of the entire nation. He feels
especially that the binding force of previous decisions reassures the
public sense of right, and lends a continuity which could never be
afforded by the theoretical formulations of an abstract code.

Another factor must be taken into account. A judicial decision which is
forgotten as quickly as the voice of the judge who speaks it, can never
have so considerable an influence on the public mind as one which itself
creates law. In one sense, to be sure, the German judge creates law too;
the penal code sets wide limits to the punishment of a criminal, and
within these limits the judge assigns a certain penalty. He does in a
sense create the right for this particular case; but the characteristic
difference is, that in the German Empire no subsequent decision is in
the least affected by such preceding decision. The German judge finds
justice prescribed for him and he is its servant, while the American
makes it and is its master. This gives to the judicial utterance an
historical weight and enduring significance, which contribute vastly
toward keeping judicial doings in the focus of the public consciousness.

The same is brought about in still another way. Since the decision of
the judge is largely dependent on previous cases, the fate of the
parties contending may depend on whether they are able to point to
previous decisions which are favourable to their side. The layman cannot
do this, and it falls to the counsel. In this wise a sphere of action is
open to the American lawyer which is incomparably greater than that of
any German Anwalt. The former has to concern himself not only with the
case in hand, but he has to connect this concrete instance with the
whole historic past. Thus the profession of the lawyer comes to have an
inner importance which is unknown to the European, and which in many
cases necessarily exceeds the importance of the judge, since he is bound
to comply with the decisions adduced by the counsels for both sides. The
judges are selected from the ranks of lawyers, and are, therefore,
brought up in the idea that law is composed of former decisions, and
that the decisions of the bench are admirable only so far as they are
consistent enough with the earlier ones to force the conviction and
respect of the lawyers. Thus barristers and judges are entirely at one,
and are together entrusted with the public sense of right, as it has
developed itself historically, and as it is day by day added to and
perpetuated, so that it shall be a never-failing source of quickening to
the conscience of the masses.

In the masses of the people, on the other hand, the natural tendencies
are favourable anyhow for developing a lively sense of justice. It is a
necessity devolving naturally on the individualistic view of things. The
protection of individual rights and the inviolability of the individual
person, with all that belongs to it, are the individualist’s most vital
concern. Many outward features of American life may seem, indeed, to
contradict this, but any one who looks more deeply will see that
everywhere the desire for justice is the essential trait of both the
individual and the nation; and the public consciousness would rather
endure the crassest absurdities and misunderstandings in public affairs
than the least conscious violation in the administration of justice.
Again and again important trials go to pieces on small technical errors,
from which the severe sense of justice of the American is not able to
free itself. The public is always willing to endure any hardship rather
than to tolerate any maladministration of justice.

On the finest square in Boston stands a large and magnificent hotel,
erected by rich capitalists. The building laws provide that structures
facing that square shall not exceed a height of ninety feet; but in
violation of the law certain cornices and balustrades were added to this
building above the ninety-foot line, in order to give an artistic finish
to the structure, and still to turn practically every inch allowed by
law to account for rentals, which are high in so palatial a building.
Every one agreed that this ornamental finish was highly decorative and
satisfactory in the æsthetic sense, but that it must, nevertheless, be
taken down, because it violated the law by some seven feet. The cornice
and balustrades have, therefore, been demolished at great expense, and a
handsome structure has been made absolutely hideous—a veritable
monstrosity. The best square in the city is disfigured, but every
Bostonian looks on this building with gratification. Beautiful
architectural detail may indeed have been sacrificed; but the public
conscience has won, and it is on this that the nation rests.

It is merely incidental that very much, and indeed much too much, of
that which the Germans account matters of justice, is relegated by the
American point of view to other tribunals; some, for instance, are held
to be political questions, and thus it often appears to the foreigner as
if there had been a violation of justice where really there has been
only some political abuse. But matters of that sort loom up whenever any
nation tries to form an opinion about another. In Germany, indeed, the
American seems to see many violations of justice, where the German would
find only an historically established social or political abuse.

As we have said, American justice is based on the decisions handed down
in earlier cases. But this is, after all, only one of the three sources
of law. That form of law-making is also here recognized which in Europe
is the only form; the law-making by the majority of the people’s
representatives. We have seen how Congress passes every year hundreds of
laws. Many of these are indeed special measures, with no universal
application; not a few, however, are of very broad application and
involve an unlimited number of possible instances. And just as the
Congress of the United States, so also can the legislature of each state
prescribe general regulations, applicable within the state. Such laws
made by the legislature are technically called statutes. These are
engrossed in the statute-books of the state, and supersede all opposed
decisions which may then exist. The federal judge, like the judge in a
special state, is therefore bound to earlier decisions only so far as
these are not expressly annulled by statutes.

Here we find one of the main reasons for the extraordinary complexities
of the American law; forty-five legislatures are making laws for their
several states, and in this way they of course give expression to the
diversity of local needs and the varying grades of culture. At the same
time, the principle of law, based on earlier decisions, is always
combined with the principle of the statute-book. In the cases, both of
the laws of Congress and those of the separate states, the judges who
first come to apply the statutes in practice, are privileged to make
their own interpretation; and here, too, the interpretation handed down
in the judge’s decision is valid for all future cases.

In both the federal and state courts a legal action may be carried from
the lower to the higher courts, and the decision of the highest tribunal
becomes definitely law. The forty-five-fold diversity refers thus not
merely to the statutes of the separate states, but also to the
interpretations of those statutes which have been given by the upper
courts of those states.

The third source of law is the only one that prescribes absolute
uniformity for all parts of the country. This is the Constitution of the
United States. The Constitution must not be conceived as the creation of
Congress; Congress was created by the Constitution. Therefore every
provision of the Constitution is a higher law than any bill which
Congress can pass, just as the law made by Congress is higher than the
decision of any judge. No Congress can modify a clause of the
Constitution. The assent of the entire people is necessary for such a
revision. Congress can, however, propose an amendment to the
Constitution, and a two-thirds majority in the Senate and the House
suffice to bring the proposed change before the nation, to be voted on.
It has then to be passed on by the forty-five state legislatures, and
will become a law with the approval of three-quarters of the states.

At first glance it seems as if this were a judicial machinery which
would be far too complicated to work smoothly; it seems as if sources of
friction had been arbitrarily devised, and as if continual collisions
between the authorities of the several systems would be inevitable. This
is true in two instances especially; firstly, the judicial machinery,
which carries out the federal laws, sometimes collides with that of the
separate states. Then, secondly, the complicated system of
Constitutional provisions, devised a hundred years since, may interfere
with the progressive measures of Congress or the separate states; and
this must be a source of much uncertainty in law. These are the actual
difficulties of a legal sort. Everything else, as for instance the
enormous diversity of the laws in the separate states, is of course very
inconvenient, but gives rise to no conflicts of principle.

Neither of these two difficulties finds its counterpart in Germany. In
no Prussian city is there a German tribunal side by side with the
Prussian, no imperial judge beside the local judge; nor can one conceive
of a conflict in the German Empire between the creators of the legal
code and the law-givers who frame the provisions of the Constitution.
This doubleness of the judicial officials is in every part of the Union,
however, characteristic of the American system and necessary to it. The
wonderful equilibrium between centripetal and centrifugal forces which
characterizes the whole American scheme of things makes it impossible
from the outset for either the whole Federation to become the sole
administrator of justice, or for such administration, on the basis of
federal law, to be left entirely to the separate states. As a matter of
course, a clear separation of jurisdiction has been necessary. The
Constitution provides for this in a way clearly made necessary by the
conditions under which the Federation was formed. Justice in the army
and navy, commercial policies, and political relations with other
countries; weights and measures, coinage, provisions, interstate
commerce, and the postal system, the laws of patents and copyrights, of
bankruptcy, and of naturalization, the laws of river and harbour, cases
of treason, and much else are left to the Federation as a whole. While
all these matters fall naturally within the scope of federal law, there
are, on the other hand, obvious reasons whereby certain classes of
persons should be under the jurisdiction of the federal courts. These
are, firstly, diplomatic ministers and consuls; secondly, either actual
or legal parties when they belong in different states; thirdly, and most
important, the states themselves. Wherever a state is party to an
action, the Supreme Federal Court must hear the case and give the
decision. On the other hand, the Constitution declares expressly that,
wherever jurisdiction is not explicitly conferred on the federal courts,
it pertains to the individual states; therefore, much the larger part of
criminal law belongs to the states, and so the laws of marriage and
inheritance, of contract, property ownership, and much else.

For the administration of cases within its jurisdiction, the Federation
has divided the whole country into twenty-seven districts, whose
boundaries coincide partly with state lines, and of which each has a
district court. Groups of such districts form a circuit, of which each
has a circuit court, which sits on the more important cases, especially
civil cases involving large interests. And, finally, there is a court of
appeals. These districts and circuits are now coincident with the
regions lying in the jurisdiction of the several states. In their method
of procedure the federal and the state courts resemble each other,
especially in the general conduct of criminal cases, which is everywhere
the same, because the Constitution itself has fixed the main features.
Both state and federal courts are alike bound by the extraordinarily
rigid rules framed by the Constitution in order to protect the innocent
man against the severity of the law.

No criminal can be condemned except by a jury which has been sworn to
perform its duty, and before he comes before this jury a provisional
jury has to make the accusation against him. Thus one sworn jury must be
convinced of the justice of the suspicion before a second jury can give
its verdict. A person cannot be brought up for trial twice for the same
crime; no one can be compelled to testify against himself; every one has
the right to be brought before a jury in the district where the crime
was committed, to hear all the testimony against him, to have counsel
for his own defence, and to avail himself of the strong arm of the law
in bringing to court such witnesses as would speak in his favour; cruel
or excessive penalties may not be fixed, nor a man’s freedom or property
interfered with except after due process of law. The Constitution
provides this, and a good deal else, and thus makes the conduct of
trials uniform. In other respects, however, there are not a few
differences which are not so obvious in the courts. Among these is the
circumstance that federal judges are appointed for life, while the
judges of the separate states are elected for short periods of from four
to seven years.

The relations between constitutional laws and legislative laws seem even
more complicated. Here, too, in a way, the same province is covered by a
two-fold system of laws. The fixed letter of the Constitution and the
living decisions by a majority in Congress or in a state legislature,
stand in opposition to each other. It is established that no legislature
can ride over the Constitution; and if the interpretation of a court
brings out a contradiction between the two systems, a conflict arises
which in principle makes justice uncertain. If we now ask how it is
possible that all such conflicts have disappeared without the least
prejudice to the national sense of justice, how in spite of all these
possibilities of friction no disturbance is seen, or how in a land which
has been overrun with serious political conflicts, a jurisprudence so
lacking in uniformity has always been the north star of the nation—the
reply will be that the Supreme Court has done all this. The upper
federal court has been the great reconciling factor in the history of
the United States, and has left behind it a succession of honourable
memorials. Its most distinguished chief justice has been John Marshall,
who presided over it from 1801 to 1835. He was America’s greatest
jurist, and contributed more than any one else toward impressing the
spirit of the Constitution on the country.

The German reader who hears of the Supreme Court sitting at the Capitol,
must not turn back in his mind to the Imperial Court at Leipzig. The
Supreme Court is by no means the sole court of highest instance, for the
suits in single states which properly fall within the jurisdiction of a
state can go no higher than the highest court of appeal of that state.
The Supreme Court in Washington is the court of last instance for
federal cases; but in order to disburden the judges in Washington, there
are large classes of civil cases pertaining to the federal courts, which
can be carried no higher than the federal court of appeals of a given
circuit. Much more important than the cases in which the Supreme Court
is really the court of highest instance for federal suits, are those
others in which it is at once the court of first and last instance;
these are the processes which the Constitution assigns immediately to
the Supreme Court. They are chiefly suits in which a single state, or in
which the United States is itself a party, for the Supreme Bench alone
can settle disagreements between states and decide whether the federal
or state laws conflict with the Constitution. In this sense the Supreme
Court is higher than both President and Congress. If it decides that a
treaty which the Executive has concluded, or a law which has been passed
by the Legislative, violates the Constitution, then the doings of both
Congress and the President are annulled. There is only one way by which
a decision of the Supreme Court can be set aside—namely, by the vote of
a three-fourths majority of all the states; that is, by an amendment of
the Constitution. There are some instances of this in the history of the
United States; but virtually the decision of the nine judges of the
Supreme Court is the highest law of the land.

The Supreme Court has annulled Congressional measures twenty-one times
and state statutes more than two hundred times, because these were at
variance with the Constitution. Many of these have been cases of the
greatest political importance, long and bitterly fought out in the
legislatures, and followed with excitement by the public. The whole
country has often been divided in its opinion on a legal question, and
even the decision itself of the nine judges has sometimes been handed
down with only a small majority. Nevertheless, for many years the
country has every time submitted to the oracle of the Supreme Court, and
considered the whole issue definitely closed.

One is not to suppose that the Supreme Court occupies itself with
handing down legal verdicts in the abstract and in a way declaring its
veto whenever Congress or some legislature infringes the Constitution.
Such a thing is out of the question, since theoretically the Supreme
Court, although the equal is not the superior of Congress; most of all,
it is a court and not a legislature. The question of law does not come
up then before this tribunal until there is a concrete case which has to
be decided, and the Supreme Court has always declined to hand down a
theoretical interpretation in advance of an actual suit. As early as the
eighteenth century, Washington was unable to elicit from the Supreme
Court any reply to a hypothetical question. Even when the actual case
has come up, the Supreme Court does not say that a certain law is
invalid, but decides strictly on the one case before it, and announces
on what principle of the law it has based its decision. If there is a
disagreement between two laws, the decision of the Court simply lays the
practical emphasis on one rather than on the other. It is true that in
this way nothing but one single case is decided; but here the principle
of common law comes in—one decision establishes a point of law, and the
Supreme Court and all lower courts likewise must in future hand down
verdicts conformable thereto. The legislative law so superseded is thus
practically annulled and made non-existent. In the Supreme Court one
sees again that the security of national justice rests on the binding
force of former decisions.

It will be enough to point out two decisions which have been given in
recent years and which have interested the whole country. In the year
1894 Congress passed a new tax law; one clause of this law taxed every
income which was larger than a certain amount. It was taxation of the
wealthy. So far as income was obtained by actual labour the tax was
undoubtedly valid. But New York barristers doubted the constitutionality
of this tax in so far as it was laid on the interest from securities or
on rents; because the Constitution expressly says that direct taxation
for the country must be levied by the separate states, and in such a way
that the whole sum to be raised shall be apportioned among the different
states according to their population. The counsels of the wealthy New
Yorkers said this provision ought to apply here. The difference would be
for every rich man in thickly populated states a very considerable one.
If the tax was to be apportioned according to population, the poor
states must also bear their share. While it came to be levied on the
individuals the largest part of the burden would fall to the
millionaires, who are grouped in a few states. The Supreme Court would
say nothing so long as the discussion was theoretical. Finally, a case
was tested; when the lawyers were prepared, a certain citizen refused to
pay the income tax and let the matter go to court. The first barristers
in the country were divided on the question, as was also the Supreme
Court. The majority decided in favour of the citizen who refused to pay
the tax, because in its opinion the tax was a direct one, and therefore
the constitutional provision relating to direct taxation was in force.
By this one decision the income tax was set aside, and instead of ten
thousand new suits being brought, of which the outcome was already
clear, the excess taxes were everywhere paid back. At bottom this was
the victory, over both President and Congress, of a single eminent
barrister, who is to-day the ambassador to England.

A still more important decision, because it involved the whole political
future of the United States, was that on the island possessions. By the
treaty with Spain, Porto Rico had become a possession of the United
States, and was therefore subject to United States law; but Congress
proceeded to lay a tariff on certain wares which were imported from the
island. There were two possible views. On the one hand, the Constitution
prescribes that there shall be no customs duties of any sort between the
states which belong to the Union; and since Porto Rico is a part of the
Union the rest of the states may not levy a tariff on imports from the
island. On the other hand, the Constitution empowers Congress to
regulate at its discretion the affairs of such territory as belongs to
the United States, but has not yet been granted the equal rights of
states; thus the other provision of the Constitution would not
immediately apply to this island. The question had never before been
decided, because the Indian territories, the Mexican accessions, and
Alaska had never been treated as Porto Rico now was. Congress had
previously taken for granted that the Constitution was in force for
these territories, but now the imperialistic tendencies of politics had
created a new situation, and one which had to be settled.

Here too, of course, the Supreme Court did not try to settle the
theoretical question which was stirring the whole country; but presently
came the action of Downes vs. Bidwell, a simple suit in which a New York
commercial house was the complainant, and the New York Customs the
defendant. In case the provisions of the Constitution were to hold for
the entire domain of the United States, the tariff which Congress had
enacted was unconstitutional, but if the Constitution was to hold only
for the states, while Congress was sovereign over all other possessions,
the tariff was constitutional. The Supreme Court decided for this latter
interpretation by five votes against four, and the commercial house paid
its tax. Therewith the principle was decided for all time, and if
to-morrow the United States should get hold of Asia and Africa, it is
assured from the outset that the new domain would not be under the
Constitution, but under the authority of Congress—simply because Downes
lost his case against Customs Inspector Bidwell, and had to pay six
hundred dollars in duty on oranges.

This last case shows clearly that the decisions by no means always
support the Constitution against legislative bodies; and statistics show
that although in two hundred cases the verdict has been against the
legislatures, it has been more often decided in their favour. The entire
history of the Supreme Court shows that in a conservative spirit it has
always done full justice to both the centralizing and particularizing
tendencies. It has shown this conciliatory attitude especially by the
firm authority with which it has decided the hazardous disputes over
boundaries and other differences, between the several states, so that
such disputes really come up no longer. For a century the Supreme Court
has been a shining example of a federal tribunal.

Such complete domination of the national life could not have been
attained by the Supreme Bench if it had not remained well above all the
doings of the political parties, and that it does so may seem surprising
when one considers the conditions under which the judges are appointed.
The President selects the new judge whenever, by death or retirement, a
vacancy occurs among the nine judges; and the Senate confirms the
selection. Party factors, therefore, determine the appointment, and in
point of fact Democratic Presidents have always appointed judges
belonging to their own party, and Republicans have done the same. The
result is that both parties are represented in the Supreme Court. That
in political questions, such as the case of Porto Rico, which we have
mentioned, party conceptions figure somewhat in the decision of the
judges is undoubted. Yet they figure only in the sense that allegiance
to one or the other party involves certain fundamental convictions, and
these necessarily come into play in the judicial verdict. On the other
hand, there is never the least suspicion that the judges harbour
political schemes or seek in their decision to favour either political
party. This results from the fact that it is a matter of honour with
both parties to place really the most distinguished jurists in these
highest judicial offices—jurists who will be for all time an honour to
the administration which appointed them. They are almost exclusively men
who have never taken part in technical politics, but who have been
either distinguished judges elsewhere or else leading barristers, and
who, from the day of their appointment on, will be only judges. Their
position is counted among the most honourable which there is, and it
would almost never happen that a jurist would decline his appointment,
although the position, like all American official positions, is
inadequately rewarded; the salary is ten thousand dollars, while any
great lawyer is able to earn many times that sum. At the present moment
there sits on the Supreme Bench a group of men, every one of whom
represents the highest kind of American spirit. The bustle and
confusion, which prevail in the two wings of the Capitol, does not
invade the hall where the nine judges hold their sessions. These men
are, in the American public mind, the very symbol of conscience.

We shall have occasion to consider later on the administration of
justice by the nation, under various points of view. While in many
respects this will appear less conscientious and more especially less
deliberate, it will, nevertheless, recall not a few admirable features
of the Supreme Court.

                              CHAPTER SIX
                            _City and State_

The Constitution, the President and his Cabinet, the Senate, the House
of Representatives, and the Supreme Court, in short all of those
institutions which we have so far sketched, belong to the United States
together. The European who pictures to himself the life of an American
will inevitably come to think that these are the factors which most
influence the life of the political individual. But such is not the
case; the American citizen in daily life is first of all a member of his
special state. The organization of the Union is more prominent on the
surface than that of the single state, but this latter is more often
felt by the inhabitants.

The quality of an American state can be more easily communicated to a
German than to an Englishman, Frenchman, or Russian. The resident of
Bavaria or Saxony knows already how a man may have a two-fold
patriotism, allegiance to the state and also to the empire; so that he
can recognize the duties as well as the privileges which are grouped
around two centres. The essentials of the American state, however, are
not described by the comparison with a state in the German Empire, which
is relatively of too little importance; for in comparison with the Union
the American state has more independence and sovereignty than the
German. We have observed before that it has its own laws and its own
court of last appeal; but these are only two of the many indications of
its practical and theoretical independence. The significant organic
importance of the state shows itself not less clearly if one thinks of
the cities subordinate to it, rather than of the Federation which is
superior to it. While the German state is more dependent on the
Federation than is the American, the German city is more independent of
the state than is any city in the United States. The political existence
of the American city is entirely dependent on the legislature of its
state. The Federation on the one hand and the cities on the other, alike
depend for their administrative existence on the separate states.

It is not merely an historical relic of that time when the thirteen
states united, but hesitated to give up their individual rights to the
Federation; a time when there were only six cities of more than eight
thousand inhabitants. Nothing has changed in this respect, and it is not
only the Democratic party to-day which jealously guards state rights;
the state all too often tyrannizes still over the large cities within
its borders. There are some indications, indeed, that the state rights
are getting even more emphasis than formerly—perhaps as a reaction
against the fact that, in spite of all constitutional precautions, those
states which have close commercial relations tend practically to merge
more and more with one another.

On observing the extraordinary tenacity with which the federal laws and
the local patriotism of the individual cling to the independence of each
one of the forty-five states, one is inclined to suppose that it is a
question of extremely profound differences in the customs, ideals,
temperaments, and interests of the different states. But such is not at
all the case. The states are, of course, very unlike, especially in
size; Texas and Rhode Island, for instance, would compare about as
Prussia and Reuss. There are even greater differences in the density of
population; and the general cast of physiognomy varies in different
regions of the country. The Southerner shows the character bred by
plantation life; the citizen of the North-east evinces the culture bred
of higher intellectual interests; while the citizens of the West attest
the differences between their agricultural and mining districts. Yet the
divisions here are not states, but larger regions comprising groups of
states, and it sometimes happens that more striking contrasts are found
within a certain state than would be found between neighbouring states.
The state lines were after all often laid down on paper with a ruler,
while nature has seldom made sharp lines of demarcation, and the
different racial elements of the population are fairly well mixed. For
the last century the pioneers of the nation have carried it steadily
westward, so that in many states the number of those born in the state
is much less than of those who have migrated to it; and of course the
obstinate assertion of the prerogatives of such a state does not arise
from any cherished local traditions to which the inhabitants are
accustomed. The special complexion of any provincial district, moreover,
is assailed from all sides and to a large extent obliterated, in these
days of the telegraph and of extraordinarily rapid commercial
intercourse and industrial organization.

The uniformity of fashions, the wide-spread distribution of newspapers
and magazines, the great political parties, and the intense national
patriotism all work towards the one end—that from Maine to California
the American is very much the same sort of man, and feels himself, in
contrast with a foreigner, to be merely an American. And yet in spite of
all this each single state holds obstinately to its separate rights. It
is the same principle which we have seen at work in the American
individual. The more the individuals or the states resemble one another
the more they seem determined to preserve their autonomy; the more
similar the substance, the sharper must be the distinctions in form.

The inner similarity of the different states is shown by the fact that,
while each one has its own statute-book and an upper court which
jealously guards its special constitution, nevertheless all of the
forty-five state constitutions are framed very much alike. The
Constitution of the United States would by no means require this, since
it prescribes merely that every state constitution shall be republican
in form; and yet not a single state has taken advantage of its great
freedom. The constitutions of the older states were modelled partly on
the institutions of the English fatherland, partly on those of colonial
days; and when many of these features were finally embodied in the
Federal Constitution, they were reflected back once more in the
constitutions of the states which later came to be. The new states have
simply borrowed the general structure of the older states and of the
Federation, without much statesmanlike imagination; although here and
there is some adaptation to special circumstances. There are indeed some
odd differences at superficial points, and inasmuch as, in contrast to
the Federal Constitution, the state constitutions have frequently been
reshaped by the people, a reactionary tendency or some radical and hasty
innovation has here and there been incorporated.

The principles, however, are everywhere the same. Each state has framed
a reduced copy of the Federal Constitution, and one finds a still more
diminutive representation of the same thing in the American city
charter. Yet we must not forget here that, although theoretically and
constitutionally the state is greater than the city, yet in fact the
city of New York has a population eighty times as large as the State of
Nevada, with its bare 40,000 inhabitants; or, again, that the budget of
the State of Massachusetts is hardly a quarter as large as that of
Boston, its capital city.

Thus, like the Union, both city and state have a charter and an
executive, a dual legislature, and a judiciary, all of which reproduce
on a small scale all the special features of the federal organization.
The city charter is different from that of the state, in that it is not
drawn up by the inhabitants of the city, but, as we have said, has to be
granted by the state legislature. The head of the state executive, the
governor, is in a way a small president, who is elected directly by the
people, generally for a two years’ term of office. In the city
government the mayor corresponds to him, and is likewise elected by the
citizens; and in the larger cities for the same period. A staff of
executive officers is provided for both the mayor and the governor.

Under the city government are ranged the heads of departments, who are
generally chosen by the mayor himself; New York, for instance, has
eighteen such divisions—the departments of finance, taxation, law,
police, health, fire, buildings, streets, water-supply, bridges,
education, charities, penal institutions, park-ways, public buildings,
etc. The most important officials under the state government are always
the state secretary, the state attorney-general, and the treasurer.
Close to the governor stands the lieutenant-governor, who, after the
pattern of the federal government, is president of the upper legislative
chamber. The governor is empowered to convene the legislature, to
approve or to veto all state measures, to pardon criminals, to appoint
many of the lower officials, although generally his appointment must be
confirmed by the upper legislative body, and he is invariably in sole
command of the state militia. The legislature of the state is always,
and that of the cities generally, divided into two chambers. Here again
the membership in the upper chamber is smaller than that of the lower
and more difficult to obtain. Often the state legislature does not meet
in the largest city, but makes for itself a sort of political oasis, a
diminutive Washington. The term of office in the legislature is almost
always two years, and everywhere the same committee system is followed
as at the Capitol in Washington. Only a member of the legislative body
can propose bills, and such propositions are referred at once to a
special committee, where they are discussed and perhaps buried. They can
come to the house only through the hands of this committee. The freedom
given to the state legislature is somewhat less than that given by the
Constitution to Congress. While all the parliamentary methods are
strikingly and often very naïvely copied after those in use at
Washington, the state constitutions were careful from the outset that
certain matters should not be subject to legislative egotism. On the
other hand the state legislature hands down many of its rights to
inferior bodies, such as district, county, and city administrations; but
in all these cases in which there is a real transfer of powers, it is
characteristic that these really pertain to the state as such, and can,
therefore, be withdrawn by the state legislatures from the smaller
districts at any time.

The entire administration of the state falls to the state legislature;
that is, the measures for public instruction, taxation, public works,
and the public debt, penal institutions, the supervision of railroads,
corporations, factories, and commerce. In addition to this there are the
civil and criminal statutes, with the exception of those few cases which
the Constitution reserves for federal legislation; and, finally, there
is the granting of franchises and monopolies to public and industrial
corporations. Of course, within this authority there is nothing which
concerns the relation of one state to other states or to foreign powers,
nor anything of customs revenues or other such matters as are enacted
uniformly for all parts of the country by the federal government. The
state has, however, the right to fix the conditions under which an
immigrant may become a naturalized citizen; and a foreigner becomes an
American citizen by being naturalized under the law of any one of the
forty-five states. All this gives an exceedingly large field of action
to state legislatures, and it is astonishing how little dissimilar are
the provisions which the different states have enacted.

The city governments are very diverse in size, but in all the larger
cities consist of two houses. The German reader must not suppose that
these work together like the German magistrate and the municipal
representative assembly. Since in America the legislative and executive
are always sharply sundered, the heads of departments under the
executive—that is, the German Stadträte—have no place in the law-making
body. The dual legislative is, therefore, in a way an upper and lower
municipal representative assembly, elected in different ways and having
similar differences in function as the two chambers of Congress. Here
too, for instance, bills of appropriation have to originate in the lower
house. Oddly enough, the city legislative is generally not entrusted
with education, but this is administered by a separate municipal board,
elected directly by the people. One who becomes acquainted with the
intellectual composition of the average city father, will find this
separation of educational matters not at all surprising, and very
beneficent and reasonable.

In general, one may say that the mayor is more influential in the city
government than that body which represents the citizens; this in
contrast to the situation in the state government, where the governor is
relatively less influential than the legislature. The chief function of
the governor is really a negative one, that of affixing his veto from
time to time on an utterly impossible law. The mayor, on the other hand,
can shape things and leave the stamp of his personality on his city. In
the state, as in the city, it often happens that the head of the
executive and a majority of the legislative belong to opposite parties,
and this not because the party issues are forgotten in the local
elections, but because the methods of election are different.

The division of public affairs into city and state issues leaves, of
course, room for still a third group, namely, the affairs of communities
which are still smaller than cities. These, too, derive their authority
entirely from the state legislature, but all states leave considerable
independence to the smaller political units. In local village government
the historic differences of the various regions show out more clearly
than in either state or city government. The large cities are to all
intents and purposes cast in the same mould everywhere; their like needs
have developed like forms of life; and the coming together of great
numbers of people have everywhere created the same economic situation.
But the scattered population gets its social and economic articulation
in the North, South, and West, in quite different ways; and this
difference, at an early time when the problems of a large city were so
far not known, led to different types of village organizations, which
have been historically preserved.

When the English colonies were growing up, the differences in this
connection between the New England states and Virginia were extreme. The
colonies on the northern shores, with their bays and harbours, their
hilly country and large forests, could not spread their population out
over large tracts of land, and were concentrated within limited regions;
and this tendency was further emphasized by Puritan traditions, which
required the population to take active part in church services. There
naturally was developed a local form of government for small districts,
which corresponded to old English traditions. The citizens gathered from
all parts of every district to discuss their common affairs and to
decide what taxes should be raised, what streets built, and, most of
all, what should be done for their churches and schools, and for the
poor. In Virginia, on the other hand, where very large plantations were
laid out, there could be no such small communities; the population was
more scattered, and affairs of general interest had necessarily to be
entrusted to special representatives, who were in part elected by small
parishes and in part appointed by the governor. The political unit here
was not the town, but the county.

The difference in these two types is the more worthy of consideration
because it explains how the North and South have been able to contribute
such different and yet such equally valuable factors to all the great
events of American history. New England and Virginia were the two
centres of influence in Revolutionary times and when the Union was being
completed, but their influences were wholly different. New England
served the country by effecting an extraordinarily thorough education of
its masses by giving them a long schooling in local self-government;
each individual was obliged to meditate on public affairs. Virginia,
however, gave to the country its brilliant leaders; the masses remained
backward, but the county representatives practised and trained
themselves to the rôle of leading statesmen. Between these two extremes
lay the Middle Atlantic States, where a mixed form of town and county
representation had necessarily developed from the social conditions; and
these three types, the Northern, Southern, and mixed, worked slowly back
during the nineteenth century from the coast toward the West. Settlers
in the new states carried with them their familiar forms of local
government, so that to-day these three forms may still be found through
the country. To-day the chief functions of town governments are public
instruction, care for the poor, and the building of roads. Religious
life is, of course, here as in the city, state, and Union, wholly
separated from the political organization. The police systems of these
local governments in town and village are wholly rudimentary. While the
police system is perhaps the most difficult chapter in American city
government, the country districts have always done very well with almost
none. This reflects the moral vigour of the American rural population.
The people sleep everywhere with their front doors open, and everywhere
presuppose the willing assistance of their neighbours. It was not until
great populations commenced to gather in cities, that those social evils
arose, of which the police system, which was created to obviate them, is
itself not the least.

Any one overlooking this interplay of public forces sees that in town
and city, state and Union, it is not a question of forcing
administrative energies into a prescribed sphere of action. They expand
everywhere as they will, both from the smaller to the larger sphere and
from the larger to the smaller. Therefore, the Union naturally desires
to take on itself those functions of state legislation in which a lack
of uniformity would be dangerous; as, for instance, the divorce laws,
the discrepancies in which between different states are so great that
the necessity of more uniform divorce regulations is ever becoming more
keenly felt. At present it is a fact that a man who is divorced under
the laws of Dakota and marries again can be punished in New York for
bigamy. A similar situation exists in regard to certain trade
regulations, where there are unfortunate discrepancies. Many opponents
of the trusts want even an amendment to the Constitution which will
bring them under federal law, and prevent these huge industrial concerns
from incorporating under the too lax laws of certain states.

Still easier is it for the states to interfere in the city governments.
If the Union wishes to make new regulations for the state, the Federal
Constitution has to be amended; while if the state wants to hold a
tighter rein on city government it can do so directly, for, as we have
seen, the cities derive all their powers from the state legislature.
There is, indeed, considerable tendency now to restrict the privileges
of cities, and much of this is sound, especially where the state
authority is against open municipal corruption. The general tendency is
increasing to give the state considerable rights of supervision over
matters of local hygiene, industrial conditions, penal and benevolent
institutions. The advantages of uniformity which accrue from state
supervision are emphasized by many persons, and still more the advantage
derived from handing over hygienic, technical, and pedagogical questions
to the well-paid state experts, instead of leaving them to the
inexperience of small districts and towns. There is no doubt that on
these lines the functions of the state are being extended slowly but

Then again the cities and towns in their turn are tending to absorb once
more such forces as are subordinate to them, and thus to increase the
municipal functions. The fundamental principles which have dominated the
economic life in the United States and brought it to a healthful
development, leave the greatest possible play for private initiative;
thus not very long ago it was a matter of course that the water supply,
the street lighting, the steam and electric railways should be wholly in
the hands of private companies. A change is coming into these affairs,
for it is clearly seen that industries of this sort are essentially
different from ordinary business undertakings, not only because they
make use of public roads, but also because such plants necessarily gain
monopolies which find it easy to levy tribute upon the public. In recent
years, therefore, city governments have little by little taken over the
water supplies, and tend somewhat to limit the sphere of other private
undertakings of this sort—as, for instance, that of street-lighting. At
the same time there is an unmistakable tendency for city and town to
undertake certain tasks which are not economically necessary, and which
have been left hitherto to private initiative. Cities are building
bath-houses and laundries, playgrounds and gymnasiums, and more
especially public libraries and museums, providing concerts and other
kinds of amusements and bureaus for the registration of those needing
employment; in short, are everywhere taking up newly arisen duties and
performing them at public expense.

There is, on the other hand, a strong counter-current to these
tendencies of the large units to perform the duties of the small—the
strong those of the weak, the city those of the individual, the state
those of the city, and the Union those of the state. The opposition
begins already in the smallest circle of all, where one sees a strong
anti-centralizing tendency. The county or city is not entitled, it is
said, to expend the taxpayers’ money for luxuries or for purposes other
than those of general utility. It should be generous philanthropists or
private organizations that build museums and libraries, bath-houses and
gymnasiums, but not the city, which gets its money from the pockets of
the working classes. Although optimists have proposed it, there will
certainly be for a long time yet no subsidized municipal theatres; and
it is noticeable that the liberal offers of Carnegie to erect public
libraries are being more and more declined by various town councils,
because Carnegie’s plan of foundation calls for a considerable
augmentation from the public funds. And wherever it is a question of
indispensable services, such as tramways and street-lighting, the
majority generally says that it is cheaper every time to pay a small
profit to a private company than to undertake a large business at the
public expense. From the American point of view private companies are
often too economical, while public enterprises are invariably
shamelessly wasteful.

The city pays too dear and borrows at too high a rate; in short,
regulates its transactions without that wholesome pressure exerted by
stockholders who are looking for dividends. Worst of all, the
undertakings which are carried on by municipalities are often simply
handed over to political corruption. Instead of trained experts,
political wire-pullers of the party in office are employed in all the
best-paid positions, and even where no money is consciously wasted, a
gradual laxness creeps in little by little, which makes the service
worse than it would ever be in a private company, which stands all the
time in fear of competition. For this reason the American is absolutely
against entrusting railroads and telegraph lines to the hands of the
state. When a large telegraph company did not adequately serve the needs
of the public, another concern spread its network of wires through the
whole country; and since then the Western Union and Postal Telegraph
have been in competition, and the public has been admirably served. But
what relief would there have been if the state had had a monopoly of the
telegraph lines, with politicians in charge who would have been
indifferent to public demands? The wish to be economical, to keep
business out of politics, and to keep competition open, all work
together, so that the extension of municipal functions, although
ardently wished on many sides, goes on very slowly; and it is justly
pointed out that whenever private corporations in any way abuse their
privileges the community at large has certainly plenty of means for
supervising them, and of giving them franchises under such conditions as
shall amply protect public interests. When a private company wishes to
use public streets for its car-tracks, gas or water pipes, or electric
wires, the community can easily enough grant the permission for a
limited length of time, reserving perhaps the right to purchase or
requiring a substantial payment for the franchise and a portion of the
profits, and can leave the rest to public watchfulness and to the
regular publication of the company’s reports. It is not to be doubted
that the tendencies in this direction are to-day very marked.

Just as private initiative is trying not to be swallowed up by the
community, so the community is trying to save itself from the state. So
far as the village, town, or county is concerned, nobody denies that
state experts could afford a better public service than the
inexperienced local boards, and, nevertheless, it is felt that every
place knows best after all just what is adapted to its own needs. The
closest adaptation to local desires, as, say, in questions of public
schools and roads, has been always a fundamental American principle.
This principle started originally from the peculiar conditions which
existed in the several colonies and from the needs of the pioneers; but
it has led to such a steady progress in the country’s development that
no American would care to give it up, even if here and there certain
advantages could be had by introducing greater uniformities. There is a
still more urgent motive; it is only this opportunity of regulating the
affairs of the small district which gives to every community, even every
neighbourhood, the necessary schooling for the public duties of the
American citizen. If he is deprived of the right to take care of his own
district, that spirit of self-determination and independence cannot
develop, on which the success of the American experiment in democracy
entirely depends. Political pedagogy requires that the state shall
respect the individuality of the small community so far as this is in
any way possible.

The relation between the city and the state is somewhat different; no
one would ask the parliamentarians of the state legislature to hold off
in order that the population of the large city may have the opportunity
to keep their political interests alive and to preserve their spirit of
self-determination. This spirit is at home in the streets of the great
city; it is not only wide-awake there, but it is clamorous and almost
too urgent. When, now, the municipalities in their struggle against the
dictation of the state, meet with the sympathies of intelligent people,
this is owing to the simple fact that the city, in which all cultured
interests are gathered generally, has in all matters a higher point of
view than the representatives of the entire state, in which the more
primitive rural population predominates. When, for instance, the
provincial members which the State of New York has elected meet in
Albany, and with their rural majority make regulations for governing the
three million citizens of New York City, regulations which are perhaps
paternally well meant, but which sometimes show a petty distrust and
disapproval of that great and wicked place, the result is often
grotesque. The state laws, however, favour this sort of dictation.

The state constitutions still show in this respect the condition of
things at a time in which the city as such had hardly come into
recognition. The nineteenth century began in America with six cities of
over eight thousand inhabitants, and ended with 545. Moreover, in 1800
those six places contained less than four per cent. of the population,
while in 1900 the 545 cities contained more than thirty-three per cent.
thereof. Since only a twenty-fifth part of the nation lived in cities,
the greater power of the scattered provincial population seemed natural;
but when now a third of the nation prefers city life, and especially the
more intelligent, more educated, and wealthy third, the limitations to
independent municipal rights become an obstacle to culture.

Finally, the states themselves are opposing on good grounds every
assumption of rights by the Federation—the same good grounds, indeed,
which the community has for opposing the state, and many others besides.
It is felt that historically it has been the initiative of individuals
rather than of the central government which has helped the nation to
make its tremendous strides forward, and that this initiative should not
only be rewarded with privileges, but should also be stimulated by
duties. The more nearly one state is like another, so much the more
energetically does it forbid the others to interfere in its affairs; and
the more it is like the Union the more earnestly it seeks not to let its
distinct individuality be swallowed up. Besides the moral effort toward
state individuality, there is a powerful state egotism at work in many
states which makes for the same end. Back of everything, finally, there
is the fear of the purely political dangers which are involved in an
exaggerated centralization. We have seen in this a fundamental sentiment
of the Democratic party.

Thus at every step in the political organization centrifugal and
centripetal forces stand opposite each other in the Federal Union, in
the state, in the county, and in the city. And public opinion is busy
discussing the arguments on both sides. Every day sees movements in one
or the other direction, and there is never any let up. In all these
discussions it is a question of conflicting principles, which in
themselves seem just. There is, however, another contrast—that between
principle and lack of principle. In the Union, the state, and the city,
centralists and anti-centralists meet on questions of law; but in each
one of these places there are groups of people working against the law
and trying in every way to get around it. In these discussions there is
a true and false, but in the conflicts there is a right and wrong; and
here argumentation is not needed, but sheer resistance. If one does not
purposely close one’s eyes, one cannot doubt that the public life of
America holds certain abuses, which are against the spirit of the
Constitution and which too often come near to being criminal. One can
ask, to be sure, if that lack of conscience does not have place in every
form of state in one way or another, and if the necessity of developing
a sound public spirit to fight against abuse may itself not be an
important factor in helping on the spirit of self-determination to

Any one who should write the history of disorganizing forces in American
public life will have the least to say about federal politics, a good
deal more about those of the state, and most of all about those of the
city. Certain types of temptation are repeated at every stage. There is,
for instance, the legislative committee, which is found alike in
Congress, in the state legislatures, and in the city councils. Bills are
virtually decided at first by two or three persons who exert their
influence behind the closed doors of the committee room; and naturally
enough corrupt influences can much more easily make their way there than
in the discussions of the whole house. If a municipal committee has a
bill under discussion, the acceptance of which means hundreds of
thousands of dollars saved or lost to the street railway company, then
certainly, although the president and directors of the company will not
themselves take any unlawful action, yet in some way some less
scrupulous agent will step in who will single out a bar-keeper or hungry
advocate or fourth-class politician in the committee, who might be
amenable to certain gilded arguments. And if this agent finds no such
person he will find some one else who does not care for money, but who
would like very well to see his brother-in-law given a good position in
the railway company, or perhaps to see the track extended past his own

Of course the same thing happens when a measure is brought before the
state legislature, and the vote of some obscure provincial attorney on
the committee means millions of dollars to the banking firm, the trust,
the mining company, or the industrial community as a whole. Here the
lobby gets in its work. The different states are, of course, very
different in this respect; the cruder forms of bribery would not avail
in Massachusetts and would be very dangerous; but they feel differently
about such things in Montana. As we have already said, Congress is free
of such taints.

Another source of temptation, which likewise exists for all American
law-giving bodies, arises from the fact that all measures must be
proposed by the members of such body. Thus local needs are taken care of
by the activity of the popular representatives, and, therefore, the
number of bills proposed becomes very large. Just as during the last
session of Congress, 17,000 measures were proposed in the lower house,
hundreds of thousands of bills are brought before the state legislatures
and city councils. There is never a lack of reasons for bringing up
superfluous bills. And since the system of secret committees makes it
difficult for the individual representative to appear before the whole
house and to make a speech, it follows that the introduction of a few
bills is almost the only way in which the politician can show his
constituency that he was not elected to the legislature in vain, and
that he is actually representing the interests of his supporters. A
milder form of this abuse consists of handing in bills which are framed
by reason of personal friendships or hatreds; and the same thing appears
in uglier form when it is not a question of personal favour, but of
services bought and paid for, not of personal hatred, but of a
systematic conspiracy to extort money from those who need legislation.
The milder form of wrongdoing, in which it is only a question of
personal favours, can be found everywhere, even in the Capitol at
Washington, and the much-boasted Senatorial courtesy lends a sort of
sanction to the abuse.

This evil is strengthened, as it perhaps originated, by the tacit
recognition of the principle that every legislator represents, first of
all, his local district. It is not expected of a senator that he shall
look at every question from the point of view of the general welfare,
but rather that he shall take first of all the point of view of his
state. It has indeed been urged that the senator is nothing but an
ambassador sent to represent his state before the federal government. If
this is so, it follows at once that no state delegate ought to have any
control over the interests of another state, and so the wishes of any
senator should be final in all matters pertaining to his own state. From
this it is only a small step to the existing order of things, in which
every senator is seconded on his own proposals by his colleagues, if he
will second them on theirs. In this way each delegate has the chance to
place the law-giving machinery at the service of those who will in any
way advance his political popularity among his constituents, and help
him during his next candidacy. And then, too, a good deal is done merely
for appearances; bills are entered, printed, and circulated in the local
papers to tickle the spirits of constituents, while the proposer himself
has not supposed for a moment that his proposition will pass the
committee. Things go in the state legislatures in quite the same way.
Each member is first of all the representative of his own district, and
he claims a certain right of not being interfered with in matters which
concern that district. In this way he is accorded great freedom to grant
all sorts of legislative favours which will bring him sufficient
returns, or to carry through legal intrigues to the injury of his
political opponents. And here in the state legislature, as in the city
council, where the same principles are in use, there is the best
possible chance of selling one’s friendly services at their market
value. If a railroad company sees a bill for public safety proposed
which is technically senseless and exaggerated, which will impede
traffic in the state, and involve ruinous expenditures, it will
naturally be tempted not to sit idle in the hope that a majority of the
committee will set the bill aside; for that course would be hazardous.
It may be that all sorts of prejudices will work together toward
reporting the bill favourably. If the company wants to be secure, it
will rather try such arguments as only capitalists have at their
command. And it has here two ways open: either to “convince” the
committee or else to make arrangements with the man who proposed the
bill, so that he shall recall it. If the possibility of such doings once
exists in politics, there is no means of preventing dishonourable
persons from making money in such ways; not only do they yield to
temptation after they have been elected, but also they seek their
elections solely in order to exploit just such opportunities.

Here we meet that factor which distinguishes the state legislature,
particularly of those states whose traditions are less firmly grounded,
and still more the city councils, so completely from the federal
chambers in Washington. The chance to misuse office is alike in all
three places, but men who have entered the political arena with
honourable motives very seldom yield to criminal temptation. The usual
abuses are committed almost wholly by men who have sought their
political office solely for the sake of criminal opportunities; and this
class of pseudo-politicians can bring itself into the city council very
easily, in the state legislature without much difficulty, but almost
never into Congress. If it were attractive or distinguished or
interesting to be in the state legislature, or on the board of aldermen,
there would be a plenty of worthy applicants for the position, and all
doubtful persons would find the door closed; but the actual case is
quite different.

To be a member of Congress, to sit in the House of Representatives or
perhaps in the Senate, is something which the very best men may well
desire. The position is conspicuous and picturesque, and against the
background of high political life the individual feels himself entrusted
with an important rôle. And although many may hesitate to transfer their
homes to the federal capital, nevertheless the country has never had
difficulty in finding sufficient Representatives who are imbued with the
spirit of the Constitution. On the other hand, to serve as popular
representative in the state legislature means for the better sort of
man, unless he is a professional politician, a considerable sacrifice.
The legislature generally meets in a remote part of the state, at every
session requires many months of busy work on some committee, and most of
this work is nothing but disputing and compromising over the thousand
petty bills, in which no really broad political considerations enter. It
is a dreary, dispiriting work, which can attract only three kinds of
men: firstly, those who are looking forward to a political career in the
service of the party machine and undergo a term in the state legislature
only as preparation for some more important office; secondly, those who
are glad of the small and meagre salary of a representative; and
finally, those whose modest ambition is satisfied if they are delegated
by their fellow-citizens in any sort of representative capacity.
Therefore the general level of personality in the state legislature is
low. Men who have important positions will seldom consent to go, and
when influential persons do enter state politics it is actually with a
certain spirit of renunciation, and not so much to take part in the
business of the legislature as to reform the legislature itself. Since
this is the case, it is not surprising that the most unwholesome
elements flock thither, extortioners and corrupt persons who count on
it, that in regard to dishonourable transactions, the other side will
have the same interest in preserving silence as themselves.

We must also not forget that the American principle of strictly local
representation works in another way to keep down the level of the
smaller legislative bodies. If the Representative of a certain locality
must have his residence there, the number of possible candidates is very
much restricted. This is even more true of the city government, where
the principle of local representation requires that every part of the
city, even the poorest and most squalid, shall elect none but men who
reside in it. To be sure, there is a good deal in this that is right;
but it necessarily brings a sort of people together in public committee
with whom it is not exactly a pleasure for most men to work. The
questions which have to be talked over here are still more trivial, and
more than that, the motives which attract corrupt persons are somewhat
more tangible here; since in the rapid growth of the great city the
awarding of monopolies and contracts creates a sort of spoilsman’s
paradise. As the better elements hold aloof from this city government,
by so much more do corrupt persons have freer play.

The relation of the city to both the state and Federation is even more
unfavourable when one comes to consider not the legislative, but the
executive, department. Whereas in Washington, for example, a single man
stands at the head of every department in the administration, and is
entirely responsible for the running of things, there has frequently
been in the city administrations, up to a short time ago, a committee
which is so responsible—this in agreement with the old American idea
that a majority can decide best. Where, however, a single man was
entrusted with administrative powers, he was selected generally by the
mayor and the city council together, and they seldom called a real
expert to such a position. In any case, since the administration depends
wholly on party politics, and the upper staff changes with each new
party victory, there is no such chance for a life career here as would
tempt competent men to offer their services.

In this part of the government, moreover, there is more danger from the
administration by committees than anywhere else. The responsibility of a
majority cannot be fixed anywhere; and where the mayor and aldermen work
together in the selection of officials, neither of the two parties is
quite responsible for the outcome—which is naturally not to be compared
with the closely guarded election of officials under German conditions.
For in Germany the selection of the head of a city department will lie
between a few similarly trained specialists, while the administration of
a New York or a Chicago department, as, say, that of the police or of
street-cleaning, is thought to presuppose no special preparation, and
therefore the number of possible candidates is unlimited. It is not
surprising that such irresponsible committees are not above corruption,
and that many a man who has received a well-paid administrative position
in return for his services to the party, proceeds to make his hay while
the sun shines. It is true that there are many departments where no such
temptation comes in question. It is, for example, universally believed
that the fire departments of all American cities are admirably managed.
The situation is most doubtful in the case of the police departments,
which, of course, are subject to the greatest temptations; and here,
too, there can be the worst abuses in some ways along with the highest
efficiency in others. The service for public protection in a large city
may be admirably organized and crime strenuously followed up, and
nevertheless the police force may be full of corruption. Thieves and
murderers are punctiliously suppressed, while at the same time the
police are extorting a handsome income from bar-rooms which evade the
Sunday laws, from public-houses which exist in violation of city
statutes, and from unlawful places of amusement.

To be sure, we must again and again emphasize two things. In the first
place, it is probable that nine-tenths of the charges are exaggerated
and slanderous. The punishments are so considerable, the means of
investigation so active, and the public watchfulness so keen, both on
account of the party hostility and by virtue of a sensational press,
that it would be hardly comprehensible psychologically, if political
crime in the lowest strata of city or state were to be really anything
but the exception. The many almost fanatically conducted investigations
produce from their mountains of transactions only the smallest mice, and
the state attorney is seldom able to make out a case of actual bribery.
In this matter the Anglo-Americans are pleased to point out that
wherever investigations have ended in making out a case which could
really be punished, the person has been generally an Irishman or some
other European immigrant. In any case, the collection of immigrants from
Europe in the large cities contributes importantly to the unhappy
condition of city politics.

In the second place, we must urge once more that the mere distribution
of well-paid municipal positions to party politicians is not necessarily
in itself an abuse. When, for instance, in a large city, a Republican is
succeeded by a Democratic mayor, he can generally bestow a dozen
well-paid and a hundred or two more modest commissions to men who have
helped in the party victory. But he will be careful not to pick out
those who are wholly unworthy, since that would not only compromise
himself, but would damage his party and prevent its being again
victorious. If he succeeds, on the other hand, in finding men who will
serve the city industriously, intelligently, and ably in proportion to
their pay, it is ridiculous to call the promise of such offices by way
of party reward in any sense a plundering of the city, or to make it
seem that the giving of positions to colleagues of one’s party is
another sort of corruption.

The evils of public life and the possibility of criminal practices are
not confined to legislative and executive bodies. The judiciary also has
its darker side. One must believe fanatically in the people in order not
to see what judicial monstrosities occasionally come out of the emphasis
which is given to the jury system. The law requires that the twelve men
chosen from the people to the jury must come to a unanimous decision;
they are shut in a room together and discuss and discuss until all
twelve finally decide for guilty or not guilty. If they are not
unanimous, no verdict is given, and the whole trial has to begin over
again. A single obstinate juryman, who clings to his particular ideas,
is able, therefore, to outweigh the decision of the other eleven. And it
is to be remembered that every criminal case is tried before a jury. The
case is still worse if all twelve agree, but agree only in their
prejudices. Especially in the South, but also in the West sometimes,
juries return decisions which simply insult the intelligence of the
country. It is true that the unfairness is generally in the direction of
declaring the defendant not guilty.

The law’s delay is also exceedingly regrettable, as well as the extreme
emphasis on technicalities, in consequence of which no one dares, even
in the interests of justice, to ignore the slightest inaccuracy of
form—a fact whose good side too, of course, no one should overlook. It
is most of all regrettable that the choice of judges depends to so large
an extent on politics, and that so many judicial appointments are made
by popular elections and for a limited term. The trouble here is not so
much that a faithful party member is often rewarded with a judicial
position, since for the matter of that there are equally good barristers
to be chosen from either party for vacant positions on the bench; the
real evil is that during his term of office the judge cannot help having
an eye to his reëlection or promotion to some higher position. This
brings politics into his labours truly, and it too often happens that a
ready compliance with party dictates springs up in the lower judicial
positions. Only the federal and the superior state courts are entirely
free from this.

In a similar way, politics sometimes play a part in the doings of the
state attorney. He is subordinate to the state or federal executive,
that is, to a party element which has contracted obligations of various
sorts, and it may so happen that the state attorney will avoid
interfering here and there in matters where a justice higher than party
demands interference. Especially in the quarrels between capital and
labour, one hears repeatedly that the state attorney is too lenient
toward large capitalists. Then there are other evils in judicial matters
arising from the unequal scientific preparation of jurists; the failing
here is in the judicial logic and pregnancy of the decision.

Finally, one source which is a veritable fountain of sin against the
commonwealth is the power of the party machine. We have traced out
minutely how the public life of the United States demands two parties,
how each of these may hope for victory only if it is compactly
organized, and how such organizations need an army of more or less
professional politicians. They may be in the legislature or out of it;
it is their position in the party machine which gives them their
tremendous powers—powers which do not derive from constitutional
principles nor from law, but which are in a way intangible, and
therefore the more liable to abuse.

Richard Croker has never been mayor of New York, and yet he was for a
long time dictator of that city, no matter what Democratic mayor was in
office, and remained dictator even from his country place in England. He
ruled the municipal Democratic party machine, and therefore all the
mayors and officials were merely pawns in his hands. Millions of dollars
floated his way from a thousand invisible sources, all of which were
somehow connected with municipal transactions; and his conscience was as
elastic as his pocket-book. That is what his enemies say, while his
friends allege him to be a man of honour; and nothing has really been
proved against him. But at least one thing is incontestable, that the
system of the party machine and the party boss makes such undemonstrable
corruption possible. Almost every state legislature is in the clutches
of such party mandarins, and even men who are above the suspicion of
venality misuse the tempting power which is centred in their hands in
the service of their personal advantage and reputation, of their
sympathies and antipathies, and transform their Democratic leadership
into autocracy and terrorism. In the higher sense, however, every
victory which they win for their party is like the victory of Pyrrhus,
for their selfish absolutism injures the party more than any advantage
which it wins at the polls benefits it. Their omnipotence is, moreover,
only apparent, for in reality there is a power in the land which is
stronger than they, and stronger than Presidents or legislatures, and
which takes care that all the dangers and evils, sins and abuses that
spring up are finally thrown off without really hindering the steady
course of progress. This power is public opinion.

                             CHAPTER SEVEN
                            _Public Opinion_

We have spoken of the President and Congress, of the organization of
court and state, and, above all, of the parties, in order to show the
various forms in which the genius of the American nation has expressed
itself. It may seem almost superfluous to recognize public opinion as a
separate factor in political affairs. It is admitted that public opinion
is potent in æsthetic, literary, moral, and social problems, with all of
which parties and constitutions have nothing to do. But it might be
supposed that when a people has surrounded itself with a network of
electoral machinery, supports hundreds of thousands of representatives
and officials, has perfected parties with their armies of politicians
and legislatures which every year discuss and pass on thousands of
laws—it might be supposed that in regard to political questions public
opinion would have found its complete expression along official
channels, and in a sense would have exhausted itself. Yet this is not
the case. The entire political routine, with its paraphernalia, forms a
closed system, which is distinct in many ways from the actual public
opinion of the country.

It is indeed no easy matter to find under what conditions the will of a
people can most directly express itself in the official machinery of
politics. Many Germans, for instance, entertain the notion that no
government is truly democratic except the cabinet be in all matters
dependent on a majority in parliament; and they are astonished to learn
that in democratic America Congress has no influence on the election of
the highest officials; that the President, in fact, may surround himself
with a cabinet quite antagonistic to the political complexion of
Congress. But no American believes that politics would represent public
opinion any better if this independence of the Executive and his cabinet
were to be modified, say in conformity with the English or French idea.
The reasons for a discrepancy between public opinion and official
politics lie anyhow not in the special forms prescribed by the
Constitution, but in the means by which the forms prescribed by the
Constitution are practically filled by the nation. In the English
Constitution, for instance, there is nothing about a cabinet; and yet
the cabinet is the actual centre of English politics. American politics
might keep to the letter of the Constitution, and still be the truest
reflection of public opinion. That they are not such a reflection is due
to the strong position of the parties. The rivalry of these encourages
keen competition, in which the success of the party has now become an
end in itself quite aside from the principles involved. Personal
advantages to be derived from the party have become prominent in the
minds of its supporters; and even where the motives are unselfish, the
tactics of the party are more important than its ideals. But tactics are
impossible without discipline, and a party which hopes to be victorious
in defending its own interests or in opposing others’ will be no mere
debating club, but a relentlessly strict and practical organization.
Wherewith the control must fall to a very few party leaders, who owe
their positions to professional politicians—that is, to men who for the
most part stand considerably below the level of the best Americans.

The immense number of votes cast in the Presidential elections is apt to
hide the facts. Millions vote for one candidate and millions for the
other, without knowing perhaps that a few months before the national
convention some ten or twelve party leaders, sitting at a quiet little
luncheon, may have had the power to fix on the presidential candidate.
And these wise foreordainings are even less conspicuous in the case of
governors, senators, or representatives. Everywhere the masses believe
that they alone decide, and so they do between the nominees of one party
and of the other, or sometimes between several candidates within the
party; but they are not aware that a more important choice is made
behind the scenes before these candidates make their appearance.

As with the incumbents, so it is with the platform. The party leaders
practically decide what questions shall be made the political issues;
and this is the most important function of all. We have seen that
dissenting groups can hardly hope on ordinary occasions to make a break
in the firm party organization, and though they may vigorously discuss
questions which have not been approved by the party leaders, they will,
nevertheless, arrive at no practical results. It therefore happens very
often that voters are called on to decide issues which seem to them
indifferent, or to choose between two evils, and can expect nothing from
either candidate in the matters which they think most vital. They go to
the polls merely out of consideration for their party. Thus, in reality,
the people do not decide the issues on which they are to vote, nor on
the candidates whom they elect, nor yet on the party leaders who do
decide these things. Nor can the people, if discontented with the party
in power, recall that party during its term of office. In Germany the
government can dissolve parliament if new issues arise; in England the
Cabinet resigns if it fails to carry a measure; but in America the party
with a congressional majority has nothing to fear during its appointed
term. In short, the political life of America is dominated by those
forces which rule the parties, and only in so far as the nation is
filled with the party spirit, is the official political hierarchy an
expression of the nation’s will.

Now it is not in the nature of public opinion to nerve itself up to
clear and definite issues. Unless worked on by party demagogues, it
never formulates itself in a mere yes or no, but surveys the situation
impartially, seeing advantages and disadvantages on both sides, and
passes a conservative judgment. The man who thinks only of parties will
often agree to a compromise which is unjust to both parties and in
general unworthy of them; but the man who takes his stand above the
parties knows that many problems are not fathomed with a yea or nay; he
does not see two opposite sides between which an artificial compromise
is to be found, but he appreciates the given situation in its organic
unity and historical perspective. Historical understanding of the past
and moral seriousness for the future guarantee his right judgment. He
sees the practical opposition of interests, which is always more complex
than the two-horned dilemma that the parties advertise, in a true light,
and testimony of experts instead of politicians suggests to him the
rational solution of the problem. The actual course of action to be
followed may coincide with the plan of one or the other party, or may be
a compromise between them, and yet it will be a distinct policy. In such
decisions there lives ever the spirit of immediate reality; no
artificial dichotomy nor any political tactics are involved, and the
natural moral feeling of a healthy nation is then sufficient for every
issue. Nowhere is this naïve moral sense more potent among the masses
than in America; will then these unpartisan convictions have no weight
in political life? Will they not rather strive to have an independent
effect on the destinies of the nation? The centre and real expression of
these politics for essentials is the system of public opinion.

We have seen that every American legislature has two parts, an upper and
a lower house, which have different ways of procedure and different
prerogatives. One might similarly say that the parties with all their
paraphernalia are merely the lower house of the nation, while Public
Opinion is the upper house; and only the two houses together constitute
the entire national political life. The nation is represented in each
branch, but in different senses. In a way the parties express
quantitatively the will of the nation, and public opinion does it
qualitatively. Whenever a quantitative expression is wanted, the issues
must be sharply contrasted in order to separate clearly the adherents of
each; all fine shades and distinctions have to be sacrificed to an
artificial clearness of definition, much as is done in mechanics, when
any motion is schematically represented, as the diagonal in a
parallelogram of two other forces. As a quantity any yea or nay is as
good as any other, and the intensity of any party movement is due to the
accumulation of small increments. The great advantage of this lower
house is, as of every lower house, that its deliberations can be brought
to an end and its debates concluded. Every political election is such a
provisional result.

It is very different in the upper house. Public opinion accepts no
abstract schematizations, but considers the reality in all its
complication, and in its debates no weight is given to any show of hands
or other demonstration of mere numbers. Crass contrasts do not exist
here, but only subtle shadings; men are not grouped as friends and foe,
but they are seen to differ merely in their breadth of outlook, their
knowledge, their energy, and in their singleness of heart. The end in
view is not to rush politics, but to reform politics and in all matters
to shape public events to national ideals. Here one vote is not like
another, but a single word wisely and conscientiously spoken is heard
above the babel of thousands. And here the best men of the nation have
to show themselves, not with programmes nor harangues, but with a quiet
force which shapes and unites public opinion and eventually carries all
parties before it.

Public opinion may be responsible now for a presidential veto on a bill
of Congress, now for the sudden eclipse of a party leader, or the
dropping of a list of candidates, or again it may divide a party in the
legislature. Public opinion forces the parties, in spite of themselves,
to make mere party advantage secondary to a maturer statesmanship.

Germans will not readily appreciate this double expression of the
popular will; they would find it more natural if party life and public
opinion were one. For in Germany the conditions are quite different. In
the first place there are a dozen parties, which express the finer
shades of public opinion more adequately than the two parties can in
America. And this division into many small parties prevents the
development of any real party organization such as would be needed by a
party assuming entire responsibility for the affairs of the nation. The
nearest approach to two great parties is the opposition between all the
“bürgerliche” parties on the one hand and the social democrats on the
other. But the development of really responsible parties is hardly to be
expected, since the German party is allowed only a small degree of
initiative. The representatives of the people have the right to accept
or reject or to suggest improvements in the proposals of the government;
but with the government rest the initiative and the responsibility. The
government stands above the parties, and is not elected by the people
nor immediately dependent on them. It originates most of the legislative
and executive movements, and therewith represents exactly that moral
unity of the nation which is above all parties, and which is represented
in America by public opinion; while in America the government is the
creature of the parties.

One should not draw the conclusion that the public opinion of America is
the quintessence of pure goodness. Public opinion in the United States
would be no true indication of the forces at work in the nation if it
did not represent all the essentials of the typical American. In order
to find this typical man, it would be misleading simply to take the
average of the millions; one leaves out of account the great herd of
colourless characters, and selects the man who harmoniously combines in
himself, without exaggeration, the most striking peculiarities of his
countrymen. He is not easy to find, since eccentricity is frequent; one
man is grotesquely patriotic, another moral to intolerance, another
insipidly complacent, and another too optimistic to be earnest or too
acquisitive to be just.

And yet if one goes about much in American society, one finds oneself
now and then, not only in New York or Boston or Washington, but quite as
well in some small city of the West, in a little circle of congenial men
who are talking eagerly, perhaps over their cigars after dinner; and one
has the feeling that the typical American is there. His conversation is
not learned nor his rhetoric high-flown; but one has the feeling that he
is alive and worth listening to, that he sees things in sharp
perspective, is sincerely moral, and has something of his own to say.
Party politics do not interest him specially, although as citizen he
goes to a few meetings, contributes to the party funds, and votes on
election day if the weather permits. But he speaks of politics generally
with a half-smile, and laughs outright at the thought of himself running
for the legislature. He sees the evil about him, but is confident that
everything will come around all right; the nation is young, strong, and
possessed of boundless resources for the future. Of course he
understands the prejudices of the masses, and knows that mere slap and
dash will not take the place of real application in solving the problems
which confront the nation; he knows, too, that technical proficiency,
wealth, and luxury alone do not constitute true culture. And herewith
his best energies are enlisted; he contributes generously to libraries
and universities, and very likely devotes much of his time to the city
schools. But he is frank to confess, as well, that he has a weakness for
good-fellowship and superficiality, preferring operetta to tragedy every
time. He is not niggardly in anything; to be so is too unæsthetic. At
first one is astonished by his insouciance and the optimism with which
he makes the best of everything. One feels at once his good nature and
readiness to help, and finds him almost preternaturally ready to be just
to his opponents and overlook small failings. He envelops everything
with his irrepressible sense of humour, and is always reminded of a good
story, which he recounts so drolly and felicitously that one is ready to
believe that he never could be angry. But this all changes the instant
the talk turns from amusing stupidities or little weaknesses and goes
over to indecency or corruption or any baseness of character. Then the
typical American is quite changed; his genuine nobility of soul comes
out and he gives his unvarnished opinion, not blusteringly, but with
self-controlled indignation. One feels that here is the real secret of
his character; and one is surprised to see how little he cares for
political parties or social classes. He will fiercely condemn the
delinquencies of his own party or the unfair dealings of his own social
set. It now appears how honestly religious he is, and how far the inner
meaning of his life lies beyond the merely material.

Such a good fellow it is, with all his greater and lesser traits, who
may at any time voice undiluted public opinion. Thousands who are
better, wiser, more learned, or less the spendthrift and high-liver, and
the millions of inferior natures, will show one trait or another of the
national character in higher relief. And yet the type is well marked; it
is always optimistic and confident in the future of America, indifferent
to party tactics, but enthusiastically patriotic. It is anxious to be
not merely prosperous but just and enlightened as well; it is almost
hilariously full of life, and yet benevolent and friendly; conservative
although sensitive, without respect for conventions and yet religious,
sanguine but thoughtful, scrupulously just to an opponent but
unrelenting toward any mean intent. Probably the most characteristic
traits of public opinion are a patient oversight of mistakes and
weaknesses, but relentless contempt and indignation for meanness and
lack of honour. This is in both respects the very reverse of the party
spirit, which is too apt to hinge its most boasted reforms on trivial
evils, and pass over the greatest sins in silence.

One element of public opinion should be suggested in even the briefest
sketch—its never-failing humour. It is the antiseptic of American
politics, although it would be better, to be sure, if political doings
could be aseptic from the outset. But probably dirty ambition and
selfishness are harder to keep down in a democracy than anywhere else.
The humour of public opinion stands in striking contrast, moreover, to
party life; as one cannot fail to discover on looking closely. Party
tactics demand that the masses have hammered into them the notion that
the sacred honour of the nation lies with their party, but that on the
other side there lies hopeless ruin. The man who urges this dogma must
keep a very solemn face, for if he were to bring it out with a twinkle
in his eye, he would destroy the force of his suggestion. The voter,
too, is serious in his duties as a citizen, and demands of the
candidates this extremely practical mien and solemn party arrogance. But
when the same citizen talks the matter over with his friends, he is no
longer a stickler for party, but a voicer of public opinion, and he sees
at once the humour of the situation. He punctures the party bubbles with
well-aimed ridicule. So it happens that the population is more ruled by
humour here than anywhere else, while the party leaders stand up, at
least before the public, in the most solemn guise. Just as in some
American states the men drink wine at home, but at official banquets
call for mineral water; so out of the political harness one may commit
excesses of humour, but in it one must be strictly temperate. This is,
of course, the reverse of the well-known English method, where the
masses are rather dull, while the leaders are famous wits and cynics.
America would never allow this. When one meets leading politicians or
members of the Cabinet in a social way, one is often amazed at their
ready wit, and feels that these men have decidedly the capacity to shine
as do their English colleagues. But that would wreck the party service.
The people are sovereign; public opinion has, therefore, the right to
ironical humour, and can smilingly look down on the parties from a
superior height; while those who play the party game of government have
still to keep demure and sober. In England it is the Cabinet, in America
public opinion, which assumes the gentle rôle of wit. Hardly could the
contrast between aristocracy and democracy be more clearly exemplified.

If some one should ask who makes public opinion, he might well be
referred at first to that class which at present does not enjoy the
suffrage, and presumably will not for some time to come—the women. The
American woman cares little enough for party politics, and this is not
so much because she has no rights. If she had the interest she probably
would have the rights. But while the best people have no wish to see the
women mix in with the routine of party machinery, this is not at all in
order that they may not concern themselves with the public problems of
the day. On the contrary, women exert a marked influence on public
opinion; and here, as might be expected, it is not the organized
crusades, like the temperance movement, which count, but rather their
less noisy demonstrations, their influence in the home and their general
rightness of feeling. Every reform movement which appeals to moral
motives is advanced by the public influence of women, and many a bad
piece of jobbery is defeated by their instrumentality.

If the boundaries between the sexes are forgotten in the matter of
public opinion, so even more are those between the various classes.
Public opinion is not weakened by any class antipathies. To be sure,
every profession and occupation has its peculiar interests, and in
different quarters the public opinion takes on somewhat different hues;
the agricultural states have other problems than the industrial; the
South others than the North; and the mining districts still others of
their own. But these are really not differences of public opinion, but
different sectors of the one great circle. In spite of the diverse
elements and the prejudices which go to make up public opinion, it is
everywhere remarkably self-consistent. This is because it is the voice
of insight, conscience, and brotherly feeling, as against that of
carelessness, self-interest, and exclusiveness. The particular interests
of capital and labour, of university and primary school, of city and
country, have not their special representatives at the court of public
opinion. And least in evidence of all, of course, are the officials and
professional politicians. These men are busy in strictly party affairs,
and have no time to dabble in the clear stream of public opinion. At
best, a few distinguished senators or governors, together with the
President and an occasional member of the Cabinet, come to have an
immediate influence on public opinion.

The springs of public opinion flow from the educated and substantial
members of the commonwealth, and are often tinged at first with a very
personal colouring; but the streamlets gather and flow far from their
sources and every vestige of the personal is lost. Ideas go from man to
man, and those which are typically American find as ready lodgment with
the banker, the manufacturer, or the scholar as with the artisan or the
farm-hand. Any man who appeals to the conscience, morality, patriotism,
or brotherly feeling of the American, or to his love of progress and
order, appeals to no special parties or classes, but to the one public
opinion, the community of high-minded citizens to the extent of their

Yet even such a public opinion requires some organization and support.
Bold as the statement may sound, the American newspaper is the main ally
of public opinion, serving that opinion more loyally than it serves
either official politics or the party spirit. The literary significance
of the newspaper we shall consider in another connection, but here only
its public influence. An American philosophizing on the newspapers takes
it as a matter of course that they serve the ends of party politics; and
it is true enough that party life as it is would not be possible without
the highly disseminated influence of the newspaper. A German coming to
the country is apt to deny it even this useful function. He is
acquainted in Europe with those newspapers which commence on the first
page with serious leading articles, and relegate the items of the day to
a back page along with the advertisements. But here he finds newspapers
which have on the first pages not a word of editorial comment and hardly
even a serious piece of politics—nothing, in fact, but an unspeakable
muddle of undigested news items; and as his eye rests involuntarily on
the front page, with its screaming headlines in huge type, he will find
nothing but crimes, sensational casualties, and other horrors. He will
not before have realized that the devouring hunger of the American
populace for the daily news, has brought into existence sheets of large
circulation adapted to the vulgar instincts of the millions, the giant
headlines of which warn off the educated reader from as far as he can
see them; that paper is not for him. But a foreigner does not realize
the injustice of estimating the political influence of the press from a
glance at these monstrosities, which could not thrive abroad, not so
much because the masses are better and more enlightened as because they
care less about reading. Moreover, he will come slowly to realize that
what he missed from the front page is somewhere in the middle of the
paper; that the street-selling makes it necessary to make the most of
sensations on the outside, and to put the better things where they are
better protected. And so he learns that the American newspaper does
express opinions, although its looks belie it.

The better sort of American newspaper is neither a party publication nor
yet merely a news-sheet, but the conscious exponent of public opinion.
Its columns contain a tiresome amount of party information, it is true;
but a part of this is directly in the interests of an intelligent public
opinion, since every citizen needs to be instructed in all the phases of
party life, of political and congressional doings, and in regard to the
candidates who are up for office. It is to be admitted, moreover, that
some of the better newspapers, although not the very best, are
unreservedly committed to the leaders of some party—in short, are party
organs. In the same way several newspapers are under the domination of
certain industrial interests and cater to the wishes of a group of
capitalists. But any such policy has to be managed with the utmost
discretion, for the American newspaper reader is far too experienced to
buy a sheet day after day which he sees to be falsified; and he has
enough others to resort to, since the competition is always keen, and
even middle-sized cities have three or four large daily papers.

It is perhaps fortunate that any such extreme one-sidedness is not to
the commercial advantage of the newspapers, for in America they are
preëminently business enterprises. Their financial success depends in
the first place on advertisements, and only secondarily on their sales
in the streets. The advertising firm does not care whether the
editorials and news items are Republican or Democratic, but it cares
very much about the number of copies which are circulated; and this
depends on the meritorious features which the paper has over competing
sheets. Newspapers like the German, which count on only a small circle
of readers, and these assured, at least for the time being, by
subscriptions, can far more readily treat their readers cavalierly and
constrain their attention for a while to a certain party point of view.
In an American city the daily sales are much greater than the
subscriptions, and the sheets which get the most trade are those which
habitually treat matters from all sides, and voice opinions which fall
in with every point of view. Of course, this circumstance cannot prevent
every paper from having its special political friends and foes, its
special hobbies, its own style, and, above all, its peculiar material
interests. But, on the whole, the American newspaper is extraordinarily
non-partisan on public questions, notwithstanding the statements in many
German books to the contrary; and the ordinary reader might peruse a
given paper for weeks, except just on the eve of an election, without
really knowing whether it was Republican or Democratic. Now one party
and now the other is brought up for criticism, and even when the sheet
is distinctly in favour of a certain side, it will print extracts from
the leading articles of opposing journals, and so well depict the entire
situation that the reader can form an opinion for himself.

While the newspapers are in this way largely emancipated from the yoke
of parties, they are the exponents of a general set of tendencies which,
in opposition to party politics, we have called public opinion. In other
words, the papers stand above the parties with their crudely schematic
programmes and issues, and aspire to measure men and things according to
their true worth. Though ostensibly of one party, a journal will treat
men of its own side to biting sarcasm, and magnanimously extol certain
of its opponents. The better political instincts, progress and reform,
are appealed to; and if doubtful innovations are often brought in and
praised as reforms, this is not because the newspaper is the organ of a
party, but rather of public sentiment, as it really is or is supposed to
be. The newspaper reflects in its own way all the peculiarities of
public opinion—its light-heartedness and its often nervous restlessness,
its conservative and prudent traits, its optimism, and its ethical
earnestness; above all, its humour and drastic ridicule. It is well
known that the American newspaper has brought the art of political
caricature to perfection. The satirical cartoon of the daily paper is of
course much more effective than that of the regular comic papers. And
these pictures, although directed at a political opponent, are generally
conceived in a broader spirit than that of any party. The cap and bells
are everywhere in evidence, and there is nothing dry or pedantic. From
the dexterous and incisive leading article to the briefest jottings, one
notes the same good humour and playful satire which are so
characteristic of public opinion. This general humorous turn makes it
possible to give an individual flavour to the most ordinary pieces of
daily news, so that they have a bearing considerably broader than the
bare facts of the case, and may conceivably add their mite to public
opinion. And herewith a special newspaper style has come in, a
combination of a photographically accurate report and the whimsical
feuilleton. Thus it happens that the best papers editorially persuade
where they cannot dictate to their readers, and so, apart from party
politics, nourish public opinion and create sentiment for or against
persons, and legislative and other measures, while ostensibly they are
merely giving the news of the last twelve hours.

There is another distinctly American invention—the interview. Doubtless
it was first designed to whet the reader’s curiosity with the piquant
suggestion of something personal or even indiscreet. In Europe, where
this form of reporting is decidedly rudimentary, it usually evinces
neither tact nor taste; whereas in America it is really a literary form,
and so familiar now as to excite no remark. It has come to be peculiarly
the vehicle of public opinion, as opposed to party politics. The person
interviewed is supposed to give his personal opinions, and it is his
authority as a human personality which attracts the reader. A similar
function is served by the carefully selected letters to the editor,
which take up a considerable space in the most serious sheets.

The outer form of the newspaper is a matter really of the technical
ability of the American, rather than of his political tastes; and it is
to be observed at once that the general appearance, and above all, the
whole system of getting and printing news rapidly, is astonishing. Every
one has heard of the intrepid and fertile reporters, and how on
important occasions they leave no stone unturned to obtain the latest
intelligence for their papers. But the persistence of these men is less
worthy of note than the regular system by which the daily news is
gathered and transmitted to every paper in the land. With an infallible
scent, a pack of reporters follows in the trail of the least event which
may have significance for the general public. A good deal of gossip and
scandal is intermingled, to be sure, and much that is trivial served up
to the readers; but granted for once, that millions in the lower
classes, as members of the American democracy, wish, and ought to wish,
to carry home every night a newspaper as big as a book, then, of course,
such a hunger for fresh printed matter can be satisfied only by mental
pabulum adapted to the vulgar mind. The New York _Evening Post_ will
have nothing of this sort; it appeals more to bank directors and
professors; but shop-hands prefer the _World_. It is the same as with
the theatres; if the ordinary citizen is prosperous enough to indulge
frequently in an evening at the theatre, then, of course, melodrama and
farce will become the regular thing, since the common man must always
either laugh or cry.

The lightning news service is, of course, somewhat superficial and
frequently in error, not to say that it is served up often with the
minimum of taste; but the readers gladly take the risk of mistakes for
the sake of the greater advantage it is to public opinion to have a
searchlight which penetrates every highway and byway, showing up every
sign of change in the social or political situation, and every
intimation of danger.

And if reporters are accused of being indiscreet, one must first inquire
whether the fault does not really lie with some one or other who, while
pretending to shrink from publicity, really wants to see his name in the
paper. Anyone familiar with the newspapers of the country knows that he
is perfectly safe in telling any editor, and even any reporter, whatever
he likes if he adds the caution that he does not wish it given out. It
will not be printed. The American journalist is usually a gentleman, and
can be relied on to be discreet. The principal journalists and editors
of the leading newspapers are among the ablest men of the country, and
they often go over to important political positions and become even
ministers and ambassadors.

The powerful influence of the American newspapers is outwardly displayed
in the sumptuous buildings which they occupy. While in Europe the
newspapers are published generally in very modest quarters, where the
editors have to sit in dingy rooms, the buildings of the American
newspapers compare favourably with the best commercial edifices; and the
whole business is conducted on an elaborate scale. Scarcely less
astonishing are their achievements in the way of illustration. While the
most select papers decline on principle to appeal to the taste for
sensation, many large papers have yielded to the demand, and have
brought the technique of illustration nearly to perfection. A few hours
after any event they will have printed a hundred thousand copies of the
paper with pictures taken on the spot, and reproduced in a manner of
which any European weekly might well be proud.

Taken all in all, the American press very worthily represents the
energy, prosperity, and greatness of the American nation; and at the
same time with its superficial haste, its vulgarity and excitability,
with its lively patriotism and irrepressible humour, it clearly evinces
the influence of democracy. The better the paper the more prominent are
the critical and reflective features; while the wider the circulation,
the more noticeable are the obtrusive self-satisfaction and
provincialism, and the characteristic disdain of things European. Going
from the East to the West, one finds a fairly steady downward gradation
in excellence, although some samples of New York journalism can vie for
crude sensationalism with the most disgusting papers of the Wild West.
And yet the best papers reach a standard which in many respects is
higher than that of the best journals of the Old World. A paper like the
_Boston Transcript_ will hardly find its counterpart in the German
newspaper world; and much good can be said of the _Sun_, _Tribune_,
_Times_, and _Post_ in New York, the _Star_ in Washington, the _Public
Ledger_ in Philadelphia, the _Sun_ in Baltimore, the _Eagle_ in
Brooklyn, the _Tribune_ in Chicago, the Herald in Boston, the _Evening
Wisconsin_ in Milwaukee, and many others which might be named. Even
small cities like Springfield, Massachusetts, produce such large and
admirable papers as the _Springfield Republican_. And to be just, one
must admit that the bad papers could be condensed into tolerably good
ones by a liberal use of the blue pencil. For their mistakes lie not so
much in their not having good contributions as in their inclusion of
crude and sensational material by way of spice. Very often the front
page of a paper will be overrun with the most offensive scandals,
caricatures, and criminal sensations, while the ninth and tenth pages
will offer editorials and other articles of decided merit. The
newspapers which care only for a large circulation will have something
for everybody; and they are not far out of the way in calculating that
the educated reader who looks first at the editorials and political
dispatches, will have enough that is unregenerate in his soul to make
him relish a sideward glance at the latest sensational reports. The
newspaper is content on the whole not to bore its readers, and to hold a
close rein on public opinion rather than on party politics.

With all this, it is not to be denied that there are lower motives which
degrade journalism. One of the chief temptations lies in the
amalgamation of newspaper politics and party activities. The editor who,
in the interests of public opinion, scans all the parties with a
critical eye and professes to be impartial, is for this very reason the
more tempted to misuse his position for private gain. He may diligently
support one party in the name of impartiality and fairness, while in
reality he counts on a remunerative office if that party is successful;
and from this point the steps are few to the moral state of those who
attack a certain party or an industrial enterprise in order to discover
the error of their position on receipt of a sufficient compensation. The
energy with which some newspapers stand up for certain financial
interests casts grave doubt on their personal independence; and yet
direct bribery plays an exceedingly small role, and the government or a
foreign country is never the corrupting influence. Very much more
important are the vanity and selfishness of newspaper proprietors, who
for one reason or another choose to lead the public astray. But such
perversities are less dangerous than one might think, for the American
newspaper reader reads too much and is politically too discerning to
take these newspapers at their face value. The mood induced by one paper
is corrected by another; and while the journalist is tickled at his own
shrewdness in writing only what his readers will like, the reader slyly
preserves his self-respect and belief in his own critical ability, by
hunting out everything with which he does not agree and reading that
carefully. If the journal is above the party, the reader is above the
journal, and thus it is that the newspapers are the most influential
support of public opinion.

In this, however, they do not enjoy a monopoly; beside them are the
weekly and monthly papers. Here again we shall consider their literary
merits in another connection, but their greatest significance lies in
their influence on public opinion. The political efforts of the weekly
papers are mostly indirect; they deal primarily with practical
interests, religious and social problems, and literary matters; but the
serious discussions are carried on as it were against a political
background which lends its peculiar hue to the whole action. The monthly
magazines are somewhat more ambitious, and consider politics more
directly. In their pages, not merely professional politicians, but the
very ablest men of the nation, are accustomed to treat of the needs and
duties of city and state; and these discussions are almost never from a
one-sided point of view. A magazine like the _North American Review_
usually asks representatives of both parties to present their opinions
on the same question; and a similar breadth of view is adopted by the
_Atlantic Monthly_, the _Review of Reviews_, and other leading
monthlies, whose great circulation and influence are hardly to be
compared with similar magazines of Europe. The point of view common to
all is that of a very critical public opinion, well above party politics
and devoted to national reform and everything which makes for progress
and enlightenment. Much the same can be said of those magazines which
combine politics with literature and illustrations, such as the
_Century_, _Harper’s_, _Scribner’s_, _McClure’s_, and many others. When
_McClure’s Magazine_, for example, presents to its half-million readers
month after month an illustrated history of the Standard Oil Trust,
every page of which is an attack on secret evasions of the law, it is
not serving the interests of any party, but is reading public opinion a

The spoken word vies with the printed. The capacity of Americans, and
especially of the women, to listen to lectures is well-nigh abnormal.
And in this way social and political propagandas find a ready hearing,
although a purely party speech would not be effective outside of a party
convention. The wit and pathos of the speaker generally reach a level
considerably above mere matters of expediency, and appeal to public
opinion from a broadly historical point of view. The dinner speaker is
also a power, since he is not constrained, as in Germany, to sandwich
his eloquence in between the fish and game or to make every speech wind
craftily around and debouch with the inevitable “dreimal Hoch.” He is
quite at liberty to follow either his whims or his convictions, and
herein has come to be a recognized spring of public opinion.

Finally, somewhat the same influence is exerted by the countless clubs
and associations, and the various local and national societies which are
organized for specific ends. Every American of the better sort belongs
to any number of such bodies, and although concerning two-thirds of them
he knows no more than that he pays his dues, there is left a third for
which he sincerely labours. There is much in these organizations which
is one-sided, egotistical, and trivial, and yet in the most of them
there is something which is sound and right. There is not one at least
which fails to strengthen the conviction that every citizen is called to
be the bearer of public opinion. Just as the parties complain that the
voters neglect the routine duties of the organization, so to be sure do
the strenuous reformers of the country complain that the ranks behind
them informally break step. But the main thing is that behind them there
is a host, and that public opinion is to-day as thoroughly organized as
the official parties, and that it sees each day more clearly that its
qualitative effect on the national life is at least equally important
with the quantitative efficacy of the parties.

Every important question is treated by both organizations, public
opinion, and the parties. At the approach of a great election the
parties create such a stir and bustle that for a couple of months the
voice of public opinion seems hushed. Party tactics rule the day. But on
the other hand, public opinion has its own festivals, and above all,
works on tirelessly and uninterruptedly, except for the short pause just
before elections. Public opinion reacts equally on both parties, forces
them to pass laws that the politicians do not relish, and to repeal
others that the politicians would gladly keep; and, ignoring these men,
it brings the public conscience to bear on the issues to be pressed, the
candidates to be nominated, and the leaders to be chosen.

                             CHAPTER EIGHT
                        _Problems of Population_

We have surveyed public opinion and party politics as two distinct
factors in the American national consciousness, as two factors which are
seldom in complete agreement, and which are very often in sharp
opposition, but which finally have to work together like an upper and
lower legislative chamber in order to solve the problems of the day. We
have not the space to speak minutely of all these problems themselves
with which the American is at the present moment occupied; since the
politics of the day lie outside of our purpose. This purpose has been to
study that which is perennial in the American spirit, the mental forces
which are at work, and the forms in which these work themselves out. But
the single questions on which these forces operate, questions which are
to-day and to-morrow are not, must be left to the daily literature. It
is our task, however, to indicate briefly in what directions the most
important of these problems lie. Every one of them would require the
broadest sort of handling if it were to be in the least adequately

So many problems which in European countries occupy the foreground, and
which weigh particularly on the German mind, are quite foreign to the
American. Firstly, the church problem as a political one is unknown to
him. The separation of church and state is so complete, and the results
of this separation are viewed on all sides with so much satisfaction,
that there is nowhere the least desire to introduce a change. It is
precisely in strictly religious circles that the entire independence of
the church is regarded as the prime requisite for the growth of
ecclesiastical influence. Even the relations between the church and
party politics are distinctly remote, and the semi-political movements
once directed against the Catholic Church are already being somewhat
forgotten. There is no Jesuit question, and the single religious order
which has precipitated a real political storm has been the sect of
Mormons, which ecclesiastically sanctions an institution that the
monogamous laws of the nation forbid. Even here the trouble has been
dispelled by the submission of the Mormon Church.

As a matter of course, America has also never known a real conflict
between the executive and the people. The government being always
elected at short intervals by the people and the head of the state with
his Cabinet having no part in legislation, while his executive doings
merely carry out the wishes of the dominant political party, of course
no conflicts can arise. To be sure, there can be here and there small
points of friction between the legislative and executive, and the
President can, during his four years of office, slowly drift away from
the party which elected him, and thus bring about some estrangement; but
even this would only be an estrangement from the professional
politicians of his party. For experience has shown that the President,
and on a smaller scale the governor of a state, is successful in
breaking with his party only when he follows the wishes of public
opinion instead of listening to the dictates of his party politicians.
But in that case the people are on his side. One might rather say that
the conflicts between government and people, which in Europe are
practically disputes between the government and the popular
representatives of political parties, repeat themselves in America in
the sharp contrast between public opinion on the one hand and the united
legislative and executive on the other; since the government is itself
of one piece with the popular representation. Public opinion, indeed,
preserves its ancient sovereignty as against the whole system of
elections and majorities.

There is another vexation spared to the American people; it has no
Alsace-Lorraine, no Danish or Polish districts; that is, it has no
elements of population which seek to break away from the national
political unity, and by their opposition to bring about administrative
difficulties. To be sure, the country faces difficult problems of
population, but there is no group of citizens struggling to secede; and
in the same way the American has nothing in the way of emigration
problems. Perhaps one may also say finally that social democracy,
especially of the international variety, has taken such tenuous root
that it can hardly be called a problem, from the German point of view.
For although there is a labour question, this is not the same as social
democracy. The labour movements, as part of the great economic upheaval,
are certainly one of the main difficulties to be overcome by the New
World; but the social democratic solution, with its chiefly political
significance, is essentially unknown to the American. All this we shall
have to consider in other connections. Although this and that which
worry the European appear hardly at all in American thought, there is,
on the other hand, a great sea of problems which have mercifully been
spared to the European. It is due to the transitional quality of our
time that on this sea of problems the most tempestuous are those of an
economic character. The fierce conflicts of recent Presidential
elections have been waged especially over the question of currency, and
it is not until now that the silver programme may be looked on as at
least provisionally forgotten. These conflicts were immediately preceded
by others which concerned protection and free-trade, and the outlook is
clear that these two parties will again meet each other in battle array.

Meanwhile the formation of large trusts has loomed up rapidly as a
problem, and in this one sees the real influence of public opinion as
against that of party politics, since both parties would doubtless have
preferred to leave the trusts alone. At the same time the great strikes,
especially that of the Pennsylvania coal districts, have brought the
conflicts between capital and labour so clearly to the national
consciousness that the public attention is strained on this point.
Others say that the most serious economic problem of the United States
is the irrigation of the parched deserts of the West, where whole tracts
of land, larger than Germany, cannot be cultivated for lack of water;
while American engineers, however, now think it entirely possible with a
sufficient outlay of money to irrigate this region artificially. Still
others regard the tax issue as of prime importance; and the circle of
those who believe in single-tax reform is steadily growing. Every one
agrees also that the status of national banks needs to be extensively
modified; that the reckless devastation of forests must be stopped; and
that the commercial relations between the states must be regulated by
new laws. Some are hoping for new canals, others for the subvention of
American ships. In short, the public mind is so filled with important
economic questions that others which are merely political stand in the
background; and, of course, political questions so tremendous as was
once that of independence from England and the establishment of the
Federation, or later, the slave question and the secession of the South,
have not come up through four happy decades.

Besides the economic problems there are many social problems which
appear in those quarters where public opinion is best organized, and
spread from there more and more throughout political life; such are the
question of woman’s suffrage, and the half economic and half social
problem of the extremes between poor and rich, extremes which were
unknown to the New World in the early days of America and even until
very recent times. The unspeakable misery in the slums of New York and
Chicago, in which the lowest immigrants from Eastern Europe have herded
themselves together and form a nucleus for all the worst reprobates of
the country, is an outcome of recent years and appeals loudly to the
conscience of the nation. On the other side, the fatuous extravagance of
millionaires threatens to poison the national sense of thrift and

Among these social problems there belongs specially the earnest desire
of the best citizens to develop American art and science at a pace
comparable with the extraordinary material progress of the country.
Doubtless the admirable results which have here been obtained, came from
the extraordinary earnestness with which public opinion has discussed
these problems. The great development of universities, the increase in
the number of libraries and scientific institutions, the creation of
museums, the observance of beauty in public buildings, and a hundred
other things would never have come about if public opinion had let
things go their own way; here public opinion has consciously done its
duty as a governing power. Somewhat nearer the periphery of public
thought there are various other social propagandas, as that for the
relief of the poor and for improving penal institutions; the temperance
movement is flourishing, and the more so in proportion as it gives up
its fanatical eccentricities. Also the fight against what the American
newspaper reader calls the “social evil,” attracts more and more serious

Besides all these, there is a considerable number of purely political
problems; first among these are the problems of population, and notably
the questions of immigration and of the negro; then come internal
problems of government, such as civil service and municipal reforms,
which especially engage the public eye; finally, the problems of
external politics, in which the watchwords of imperialism and the Monroe
Doctrine can be heard shouted out above all others. At least we must
briefly take our bearings, and see why these problems exist, although
the treatment cannot be exhaustive.

The first issue in the problem of population is, as we have said, that
which concerns immigration; and this is just now rather up before public
opinion since the last fiscal year which was closed with the beginning
of July, 1903, showed the largest immigration ever reached, it being
one-tenth greater than the previous record, which was for the year
ending in 1882. The facts are as follows: The total immigration to the
United States has been twenty million persons. The number of those who
now live in the United States, but were born in foreign countries, is
more than ten millions; and if we were to add to these those who,
although born here, are of foreign parentage, the number comes up to
twenty-six millions. Last year 857,000 immigrants came into the country.
Out of the ten millions of the foreign-born population, 2,669,000 have
come from Germany, and 1,619,000 from Ireland.

The fluctuations in immigration seem to depend chiefly on the amount of
prosperity in the United States, and, secondly, on the economic and
political conditions which prevail from year to year in Europe. Up to
1810 the annual immigration is estimated to have been about 6,000; then
it was almost wholly interrupted for several years, owing to the
political tension between the United States and England; as soon as
peace was assured the immigration increased in 1817 to 20,000; and in
the year 1840 to 84,000. The hundred thousand mark was passed in 1842,
and from then on the figure rose steadily, until in 1854 it amounted to
427,000. Then the number fell off rapidly. It was a time of business
depression in the United States, and, moreover, the slavery agitation
was already threatening a civil war. The immigration was least in 1861,
when it had sunk to 91,000. Two years later it began to rise again, and
in 1873 was almost half a million. And again there followed a few years
of business depression, with its correspondingly lessened immigration.
But the moment economic conditions improved, immigration set in faster
than ever before, and in 1882 was more than three-quarters of a million.
Since 1883 the average number of persons coming in has been 450,000, the
variation from year to year being considerable. The business reverses of
1893 cut the number down to one-half, but since 1897 it has steadily
risen again.

Such bare figures do not show that which is most essential from the
point of view of public opinion, since the quality of the immigration,
depending as it does on the social condition of the countries from which
it comes, is the main circumstance. In the decade between 1860 and 1870,
2,064,000 European wanderers came to the American shores; of these
787,000 were Germans, 568,000 English, 435,000 Irish, 109,000
Scandinavians, 38,000 Scotch, and 35,000 French. Now for the decade
between 1890 and 1900 the total number was 3,844,000; of these Germany
contributed 543,000, Ireland 403,000, Norway and Sweden 325,000, England
282,000, Scotland 60,000, and France 36,000. On the other hand, we find
for the first time three countries represented which had never before
sent any large number of immigrants; Italy, Russia, and Austria-Hungary.
In the decade ending 1870 there were only 11,000 Italians, 7,000
Austrians, and 4,000 Russians, while in the decade ending in the year
1900 the Russian immigrants, who are mostly Poles and Jews, numbered
588,000, the Austrian and Hungarian 597,000, and the Italian no less
than 655,000; and the proportion of these three kinds of immigrants is
steadily increasing. In the year 1903 Germany sent only 40,000, Ireland
35,000, and England 26,000; while Russia sent 136,000, Austria-Hungary
206,000, and Italy 230,000. Herein lies the problem.

A few further figures may help to make the situation clearer. For
instance, it is interesting to know what proportion of the total
emigration from Europe came to America. In round numbers we may say that
since 1870 Europe has lost 20,000,000 souls by emigration, and that some
14,000,000 of these, that is, more than two-thirds, have ultimately made
their homes in the United States of America. Of the German emigrants
some 85 or 90 per cent. have gone to the United States; of the
Scandinavian as many as 97 per cent.; while of the English and Italian
only 66 and 45 per cent. respectively. It is worth noting, moreover,
that in spite of the extraordinary increase in immigration, the
percentage of foreign-born population has not increased; that is, the
increase of native-born inhabitants has kept up with the immigration. In
1850 there were a few more than two million foreign-born inhabitants, in
1860 more than four millions, in 1870 there were five and a half
millions, in 1880 six and a half millions, in 1890 nine and a quarter
millions, and in 1900 ten and one-third millions. In 1850 these
foreigners amounted, it is true, to only 11 per cent. of the population;
but in 1860 they had already become 15 per cent. of the whole, and
diminished in 1870 to 14.4 per cent., in 1880 to 13.3 per cent.; in 1890
they were 14.8 per cent., and in 1900 13.6 per cent.

The State of New York has the largest number of foreigners, and in the
last fifty years the percentage of foreigners has risen steadily from 21
per cent. to 26 per cent. Pennsylvania stands second in this respect,
and Illinois third. On the other hand, the small states have the largest
percentage of foreign population. North Dakota has 35 per cent. and
Rhode Island 31 per cent. The Southern states have fewest foreigners of
any. These figures are, of course, greatly changed if we add to them the
persons who were not themselves born in other countries, but of whom one
or both parents were foreigners. In this way the foreign population in
the so-called North Atlantic States is 51 per cent., and is 34 per cent.
throughout the country. If a foreigner is so defined, the cities of New
York and Chicago are both 77 per cent. foreign.

These figures are enough by way of mere statistics. The thing which
arouses anxiety is not the increasing number of immigrants, but the
quality of them, which grows continually worse. Just fifty years ago the
so-called Know-Nothings made the anti-foreign sentiment the chief plank
of their programme, but the “pure” American propaganda of the
Know-Nothings was forgotten in the excitement which waged over slavery;
and the anti-foreign issue has never since that time been so brutally
stated. There has always been much objection to the undeniable evils
involved in this immigration, and the continual cry for closer
supervision and restriction of immigration has given rise to several new
legal measures. Partly, this movement has been the expression of
industrial jealousy, as when, for instance, Congress in 1885, in an
access of protectionist fury, forbade the immigration of “contract
labour,” that is, forbade any one to land who had already arranged to
fill a certain position. This measure was meant to protect the workmen
from disagreeable competition. But right here the believers in free
industry object energetically. It is just the contract labour from the
Old World which brings new industries and a new development of old
industries into the country, and such a quickening of industry augments
the demand for labour to the decided advantage of native workmen. The
law still stands in writing, but in practice it appears to be
extensively corrected, since it is very easily evaded.

The more important measures, however, have arisen less from industrial
than from social and moral grounds. Statistics have been carefully
worked up again and again in order to show that the poor-houses and
prisons contain a much larger percentage of foreigners than their
proportionate numbers in the community warrant. In itself this will be
very easy to understand, owing to the unfavourable conditions under
which the foreigner must find himself, particularly if he does not speak
English, in his struggle for existence in a new land. But most striking
has been the manner in which the magic of statistics has shown its
ability to prove anything it will; for other statistics have shown that
if certain kinds of crime are considered, the foreign-born Americans are
the best children the nation has. The question of illiteracy has been
discussed in similar fashion. The percentage of immigrants who can
neither read nor write has seemed alarmingly high to those accustomed to
the high cultivation of the northeastern states, but gratifyingly small
to those familiar with the negro population in the South. One unanimous
opinion has been reached; it is that the country is bound to keep out
such elements from its borders as are going to be a public burden. At
first idiots and insane persons, criminals, and paupers made up this
undesirable class, but the definition of those who are not admitted to
the country has been slowly broadened. And since the immigration laws
require the steamship companies to carry back at their own expense all
immigrants who are not allowed to land, the selection is actually made
in the European ports of embarkation. In this wise the old charge that
the agents of European packet companies encouraged the lowest and worst
individuals of the Old World to expend their last farthing for a ticket
to the New World, has gradually died out. Nevertheless, in the last
year, 5,812 persons were sent back for lack of visible means of support,
51 because of criminal record, and 1773 by reason of infectious

The fact remains, however, that the social mires of every large city
teem with foreigners, and that among these masses the worst evils of
municipal corruption find favourable soil, that all the sporadic
outbreaks of anarchy are traceable to these foreigners, and that the
army of the unemployed is mostly recruited from their number. These
opinions were greatly strengthened when that change in the racial
make-up set in which we have followed by statistics, and which a census
of the poorer districts in the large cities quickly proves: Italians,
Russian Jews, Galicians, and Roumanians everywhere. The unprejudiced
American asks with some concern whether, if this stream of immigration
is continued, it will not undermine the virility of the American people.
The American nation will continue to fulfil its mission so long as it is
inspired with a spirit of independence and self-determination; and this
instinct derives from the desire of freedom possessed by all the
Germanic races. In this way the German, Swedish, and Norwegian newcomers
have adapted themselves at once to the Anglo-Saxon body politic, while
the French have remained intrinsically strangers. Their number, however,
has been very small. But what is to happen if the non-Germanic millions
of Italians, Russians, and Turks are to pour in unhindered? It is feared
that they will drag down the high and independent spirit of the nation
to their low and unworthy ideals. Already many citizens wish to require
of the immigrants a knowledge of the English language, or to make a
certain property qualification by way of precaution against unhappy
consequences, or perhaps to close entirely for awhile the portals of the
nation, or, at least, to make the conditions of naturalization
considerably harder in order that the Eastern European, who has never
had a thought of political freedom, shall not too quickly receive a
suffrage in the freest democracy of the world. And those most entitled
to an opinion unconditionally demand at the least the exclusion of all

Against all this there stand the convictions of certain rather broader
circles of people who point with pride at that great American
grist-mill, the public school, which is supposed to take the foreign
youth into its hopper, grind him up quickly and surely, and turn him out
into good American material. It is, in fact, astonishing to look at the
classes in the New York schools down on the East Side, where there is
not a child of American parentage, and yet not one who will admit that
he is Italian, Russian, or Armenian. All these small people declare
themselves passionately to be “American,” with American patriotism and
American pride; and day by day shows that in its whole system of public
institutions the nation possesses a similar school for the foreign-born
adult. Grey-haired men and adolescent youths, who in their native
countries would never have emerged from their dull and cringing
existence, hardly touch the pavement of Broadway before they find
themselves readers of the newspaper, frequenters of the political
meetings, and in a small way independent business men; and they may, a
few years later, be conducting enterprises on a large scale. They wake
up suddenly, and although in this transformation every race lends its
own colour to the spirit of self-determination, nevertheless the
universal trait, the typical American trait, can appear in every race of
man, if only the conditions are favourable.

In the same direction it is urged once more that America needs the
labour of these people. If Southern and Eastern Europe had not given us
their cheaper grades of workmen, we should not have been able to build
our roads or our railroads, nor many other things which we have needed.
In former decades this humble rôle fell to the Germans, the
Scandinavians, and the Irish, and the opposition against their admission
was as lively as it now is against the immigrants from the south and
east of Europe; while the development of the country has shown that they
have been an economic blessing; and the same thing, it is said, will be
true of the Russians and Poles. There are still huge territories at our
disposal which are virtually unpopulated, untold millions can still
employ their strength to the profit of the whole nation, and it would be
madness to keep out the willing and peaceable workers. Moreover, has it
not been the proud boast of America that her holy mission was to be a
land of freedom for every oppressed individual, an asylum for every one
who was persecuted? In the times then of her most brilliant prosperity
is she to be untrue to her noble role of protectress, and leave no hope
to those who have been deprived of their human rights by Russian or
Turkish despots, by Italian or Hungarian extortionists, to disappoint
their belief that at least in the New World even the most humble man has
his rights and will be received at his true value? Thus the opinions
differ, and public opinion at large has come as yet to no decision.

A curious feature in the immigration problem is the Chinese question,
which has occasioned frequent discussion on the Pacific coast. The
Chinaman does not come here to enjoy the blessings of American
civilization, but merely in order to earn a competence in a short time
so that he can return to his Asiatic home and be forever provided for.
He does not bring his family with him, nor attempt in any way to adapt
himself; he keeps his own costume, stays apart from his white
neighbours, and lives, as for instance in the Chinese Quarter of San
Francisco, on such meagre nourishment and in such squalid dwellings that
he can save up wealth from such earnings as an American workman could
hardly live on. A tour through the Chinese sleeping-rooms in California
is in fact one of the most depressing impressions which the traveller on
American soil can possibly experience. The individuals lie on large
couches, built over one another in tiers, going quite up to the ceiling;
and in twenty-four hours three sets of sleepers will have occupied the
beds. Under such conditions the number of newcomers steadily increased
because large commercial firms imported more and more coolie labour.
Between 1870 and 1880 more than 122,000 had come into the country. Then
Congress began to oppose this immigration, and since 1879 has
experimented with various laws, until now the Chinese workman is almost
wholly excluded. According to the last census there were only 81,000
Chinese in the whole United States.

More attractive than the yellow immigrants to these shores are the
red-skinned aborigines of the land, the Indians, whom the Europeans
found when they landed. The world is too much inclined, however, to
consider the fate of the Indian in a false light, just because his
manner of life captures the fancy and his picturesque barbarity has
often attracted the poet. The American himself is rather inclined to see
in his treatment of the Indian a grave charge against his own nation,
and to find himself guilty of the brutal extermination of a native race.
To arrive at such an opinion he assumes that in former centuries great
tribes of Indians scoured the tremendous hunting-grounds of the land.
But science has done away with this fanciful picture, and we know to-day
that these millions of natives never existed. There are to-day about
270,000 Redskins, and it is very doubtful whether the number was ever
much greater. It is true, of course, that between Central America and
the Arctic Sea, hundreds of different Indian languages were spoken, and
many of these languages have twenty or thirty different dialects. But
the sole community in which such a dialect developed would include only
a few hundred persons, and broad tracts of land would lie between the
neighbouring communities. They used to live in villages, and wandered
over the country only at certain seasons of the year in order to hunt,
fish, and collect fruits.

As soon as the European colonies established themselves in the country
the Indians used to take part in their wars, and on such occasions were
supplied by the colonists with arms and employed as auxiliary forces.
But the delights of these new methods of warfare, which they learned
quickly, broke up their own peaceful life. The new weapons were employed
for war between the Indian races, and eventually were turned by the
Indians against the white settlers themselves. But, after all, the
peaceful contact of Indians and whites was more productive of results.
Only the French and Spanish permitted a mixture of the races, and in
Canada especially to-day there is a mixed race of French and Indians;
while in Mexico a large part of the inhabitants is Spanish and Indian.
The truly American population sought above all else peaceably to
disseminate its own culture; some Indian races became agricultural and
devoted themselves to certain industrial pursuits.

Since the time when the United States gained actual possession of a
larger part of the continent, a systematic Indian policy has been
pursued, although administered largely, it must be admitted, in the
American interests, and yet with considerable consideration of the
natural inclinations of these hunting peoples. In various states,
territories were set apart for them, which were certainly more than
adequate to afford their sustenance; schools were built, and even
institutions of higher learning; and through solemn treaties with their
chiefs important rights were assigned to different races. To be sure,
the main idea has always been to persuade the Indians to take up
agricultural pursuits; to live merely by hunting flesh and eating wild
fruits seemed hardly the thing at a time when millions of people were
flocking westward out of Europe. Therefore, with every new treaty, the
Indian reservations have been made smaller and smaller. The Indians, who
would have preferred always to keep up their wild hunting life, felt,
and still feel, that this has been unjust, and certainly many of their
racial peculiarities have made it difficult to adapt American legal
traditions fairly to their needs. The Indians had no idea of the private
ownership of the soil; they considered everything as belonging to their
tribe, and least of all had they any notion of the inheritance of
property in the American sense. The Indian children belonged to the
mother’s family and the mother never belonged to the tribe of the

Although all these sources of friction have led the Indian to feel
unjustly treated, it is still true that there has been scarcely any
actually destructive oppression. The very races which have been
influenced most by American culture have developed favourably. Last year
the Indian mortality was 4,728, and the number of births 4,742; the
Indians are, therefore, not dying out. The largest community is in the
so-called Indian Territory and consists of 86,000 people, while there
are 42,000 in Arizona. The several Indian reservations together embrace
117,420 square miles.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The Indian question is the least serious problem of all those which
concern population in America; by far the most difficult is the negro
question. The Indian lives within certain reservations, but the negro
lives everywhere side by side with the American. So also the Indian
troubles are narrowly confined to a small reservation in the great field
of American problems, but the negro question is met everywhere in
American thought, and in connection with every American interest. There
could hardly be a greater contrast than that between the Indian and the
negro; the former is proud, self-contained, selfish and revengeful,
passionate and courageous, keen and inventive. The negro, on the other
hand, is subservient, yielding, almost childishly good natured, lazy and
sensual, without energy or ambition, outwardly apt to learn, but without
any spirit of invention or intellectual independence. And still one
ought not to speak of these millions of people as if they were of one
type. On the Gulf of Mexico there are regions where the black population
lives almost wholly sunk in the superstitions of its African home; while
in Harvard University a young negro student has written creditable
essays on Kant and Hegel. And between these opposite poles exists a
population of about nine millions.

The negro population of America does not increase quite so rapidly as
the white, and yet in forty years it has increased two-fold. In the year
1860, before the slaves were freed, there were 4,441,000 blacks; in
1870, 4,880,000; in 1880, 6,580,000; in 1890, 7,470,000; in 1900,
8,803,000. In view of this considerable increase of the negro, it is not
to be expected that the problem will lose anything of its urgency by the
more rapid growth of the white population. And at the same time the
physical contrast between the races is in no wise decreasing, because
there is no mixing of the white and black races to-day, as there very
frequently was before the war. It will not be long before the coloured
population will be twice the entire population which Canada to-day has.
These people are distributed geographically, so that much the largest
part lives in those states which before the war practised slavery. To be
sure, an appreciable part has wandered into the northern states, and the
poorer quarters of the large cities are well infiltrated with blacks.
Four-fifths, however, still remain in the South, owing probably to
climatic conditions; the negro race thrives better in a warm climate.
But it belongs there economically also, and has nearly every reason for
staying there in future.

Nevertheless, the negro question is by no means a problem for the South
alone; the North has its interests, and it becomes clearer all the time
that the solution of the problem will depend in large part on the
co-operation of the North. In the first place it was the North which set
the negro free, and which, therefore, is partly responsible for what he
is to-day; and it must lie with the North to decide whether the great
dangers which to-day threaten can in any way be obviated. Europe has so
far considered only one feature of the negro question—that of slavery.
All Europe read “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” and thought the difficulty solved
as soon as the negro was freed from his chains and the poorest negro
came into his human right of freedom. Europe was not aware that in this
*wise still greater problems were created, and that greater springs of
misery and misfortune for the negro there took their origin. Nor does
Europe realize that opposition between whites and blacks has never been
in the history of America so sharp and bitter and full of hatred as it
is to-day. Just in the last few years the hatred has grown on both
sides, so that no friend of the country can look into the future without
misgivings. “Das eben ist die Frucht der bösen Tat.”

Yet where did the sin begin? Shall the blame fall on the English
Parliament, which countenanced and even encouraged the trade in human
bodies, or shall it fall on the Southern States, which kept the slaves
in ignorance, and even threatened to punish any one who should instruct
them? Or shall it fall on the Northern States, which were chiefly
responsible for immediately granting to the freedmen, for the sake of
party politics, all prerogatives of fellow-citizenship? Or shall the
fault be put on the negro himself, who saw in his freedom from slavery
an open door to idleness and worthlessness?

For generations the white man has regarded the black man as merchandise,
has forcibly dragged him from his African jungles to make him work in
ignorance and oppression on the cotton, rice, and tobacco fields of a
white master. Then all at once he was made free and became an equal
citizen in a country which, in its abilities, its feelings, its laws,
and its Constitution, had the culture of two thousand years behind it.
How has this emancipation worked on these millions? The first decade was
a period of unrest and of almost frightened awakening to the
consciousness of physical freedom, in the midst of all the after-effects
of the fearful war. The negro was terrified by Southern secret societies
which were planning vengeance, and confused by the dogmas of
unscrupulous politicians who canvassed the states which had been so
savagely shaken by the war, in order to gather up whatever might be
found; and he was confused by a thousand other contradictions in public
sentiment. Nowhere was there a secure refuge. Then followed the time in
which the negroes hoped to employ their political power to advantage;
the negroes were to be prospered by their ballot. But they found this to
be a hopeless mistake. Then they believed a better way was to be found
in the public schools and books. But the negro was again turned back; he
needed not knowledge but the power to do, not books but a trade. So his
rallying-cry has shifted. The blacks have never lost heart, and in a
certain sense it must in justice be added the whites have never lacked
good-will. And yet, after forty years of freedom, the results are highly

On the outside there is much that speaks of almost brilliant success.
The negroes have to-day in the United States 450 newspapers and four
magazines; 350 books have been written by negroes; half of all the negro
children are regularly taught in schools; there are 30,000 black
teachers, school-houses worth more than $10,000,000, forty-one
seminaries for teachers, and churches worth over $25,000,000. There are
ten thousand black musicians and hundreds of lawyers. The negroes own
four large banks, 130,000 farms, and 150,000 homes, and they pay taxes
on $650,000,000 worth of real and personal property. The four past
decades have therefore brought some progress to the freedman. And yet,
in studying the situation, one is obliged to say that these figures are
somewhat deceptive. The majority of negroes are still in such a state of
poverty and misery, of illiteracy and mental backwardness, that the
negroes who can be at all compared with the middle class of Americans
are vanishingly few. Even the teachers and the doctors and pastors seem
only very little to differ from the proletariat; and although there is
many a negro of means, it is still a question whether he is able to
enjoy his property, whether the dollar in his hand is the same as in the
hand of a white man.

A part of the black population has certainly made real progress, but a
larger part is humanly more degraded than before the slaves were freed;
and if one looks at it merely as a utilitarian, considering only the
amount of pleasure which the negroes enjoy, one cannot doubt that the
general mass of negroes was happier under slavery. Their temperament is
crueller to them than any plantation master could have been. The
negro—we must have no illusions on that point—has partly gone backward.
The capacity for hard work which he acquired in four generations of
slavery, he has in large part lost again during forty years of freedom;
although, indeed, the tremendous cotton harvests from the Southern
States are gathered almost wholly by negro labour. It must be left to
anthropology to find out whether the negro race is actually capable of
such complete development as the Caucasian race has come to after
thousands of years of steady labour and progress. The student of social
politics need not go into such speculations; he faces the fact that the
African negro has not had the thousands of years of such training, and
therefore, although he might be theoretically capable of the highest
culture, yet practically he is still unprepared for the higher duties of
civilization. Under the severe discipline of slavery he overcame his
lazy instincts and learned how to work both in the field and in the
shop, according as the needs of his master required, and became in this
way a useful member of society; but he was relieved of all other cares.
His owner provided him with house and nourishment, cared for him in
illness, and protected him like any other valuable piece of property.

All this was suddenly changed on the great day when freedom was
declared; no one compelled the negro to work then; he was free to follow
his instinct to do nothing; no one punished him when he gave himself
over to sensuality and indolence. But on the other side nobody now took
care of him; in becoming his own master he remained his own slave. He
was suddenly pushed into the struggle for existence, and the less he was
forced to learn the less he was ready for the fight. There thus grew up
an increasing mass of poverty-stricken negroes, among whom immorality
and crime could thrive; and oftentimes the heavy weight of this mass has
dragged down with it those who would have been better. Worst of all, it
has strengthened the aversion of the whites a hundred-fold, and the best
members of the negro race have had to suffer for the laziness, the
sensuality, and the dishonesty of the great masses.

The real tragedy is not in the lives of the most miserable, but in the
lives of those who wish to rise, who feel the mistakes of their
fellow-negroes and the injustice of their white opponents, who desire to
assimilate everything high and good in the culture about them, and yet
who know that they do not, strictly speaking, belong to such a culture.
The negroes of the lower type are sunk in their indifference; they while
away the hours in coarse enjoyments, and are perfectly content with a
few watermelons while they dance and sing. The onlooker is disheartened,
but they themselves laugh like children. The better negroes, on the
other hand, feel all the hardship and carry the weight of the problem on
their souls. They go through life fully conscious of an insoluble
contradiction in their existence; they feel that it is denied them to
participate immediately in life, and that they must always see
themselves with the eyes of others, and lead in a way a double
existence. As one of them has recently said, they are always conscious
of being a problem.

They themselves have not chosen their lot, they did not come of their
own accord from Africa, nor gladly take on the yoke of slavery; nor were
they by their own efforts saved from slavery. They have been passive at
every turn of fortune. Now they wish to commence to do their best and to
give their best, and they have to do this in an environment for which
they are wholly unprepared and which is wholly beyond them in its
culture They have not themselves worked out this civilization; they
belong historically in another system, and remain here at best mere
imitators. And the better they succeed in being like their neighbours,
the more they become unlike what they ought naturally to develop into.

This feeling of disparateness leads directly to the feeling of
embitterment. In the general masses, however, it is the feeling of
incompetence to support the struggle for existence successfully which
turns necessarily into a bitter hatred of the whites. And the more the
lack of discipline and the laziness of the black cause the whites to
hold him in check, so much the more brightly burns this hatred. But all
students of the South believe that this hatred has come about wholly
since the negro was declared free. The slave was faithful and devoted to
his master, who took care of him; he hated work, but did not hate the
white man, and took his state of slavery as a matter of course, much as
one takes one’s inability to fly. A patriarchal condition prevailed in
the South before the war, in spite of the representations made by
political visionaries. Indeed, it is sometimes difficult not to doubt
whether it was necessary to do away with slavery so suddenly and
forcibly; whether a good deal of self-respect would not have been saved
on both sides, and endless hatred, embitterment, and misery spared, if
the Northern States had left the negro question to itself, to be solved
in time through organic rather than mechanical means. Perhaps slavery
would then have gone gradually over into some form of patriarchal

It is too late to philosophize on this point; doctrinarianism has shaped
the situation otherwise. The arms of the Civil War have decided in
favour of the North. It is dismal, but it must be said that the actual
events of the ensuing years of peace have decided rather in favour of
the view of the South. To comprehend this fully, it is not enough to ask
merely, as we have done so far, how the negro now feels; but more
specially to ask what the American now thinks.

What is to-day the relation between the white man and the negro? There
is a difference here between the North and the South, and yet one thing
is true for both: the American feels that the cleft between the white
and black races is greater now than ever before. So far as the North is
concerned, the political view of the problem has probably changed very
little. Specially the New England States, whose exalted ethical motives
were beyond all doubt—as perhaps is not so certain of the Middle
States—still sympathize to-day with the negro as a proper claimant of
human rights. But unfortunately one may believe in the negro in the
abstract, and yet shrink from contact with him in the concrete. The
personal dislike of the black man, one might even call it an æsthetic
antipathy, is really more general and wide-spread in the North than in
the South. South of Washington one can scarcely be shaved except by a
negro, while north of Philadelphia a white man would quite decline to
patronize a coloured barber. A Southerner is even not averse to having a
black nurse in the house, while in the Northern States that would never
be thought of. Whenever the principle is to be upheld, the negro is made
welcome in the North. He is granted here and there a small public
office; he delivers orations, and is admitted to public organizations;
he marches in the parades of war veterans, and a few negroes attend the
universities. And still there is no real social intercourse between the
races. In no club or private house and on no private occasions does one
meet a negro. And here the European should bear specially in mind that
negroes are not seldom men and women whose faces are perhaps as white as
any Yankee’s, and who often have only the faintest taint of African

At the very best the Northerner plays philanthropist toward the negro,
takes care of his schools and churches, helps him to help himself, and
to carve out his economic freedom. But even here the feeling has been
growing more and more in recent years that the situation is somehow
fundamentally false, and that the North has acted hastily and
imprudently in accepting the emancipated negro on terms of so complete
equality. The feeling of dissatisfaction is growing in the North, and it
is not an accident that the negro population of the North grows so
slowly, although the negro is always ready to wander, and would crowd in
great numbers to the North if he might hope to better his fortunes
there. The negro feels, however, intensely that he is still less a match
for the energetic Northerner in the industrial competition than for the
white man of the South, and that it is often easier to endure the hatred
of the Southerner than the coldly theoretical sufferance of the
Northerner when joined, as it is, with a personal distaste so

In the South it is quite different. There could hardly be an æsthetic
aversion for the race, when for generations blacks and whites have lived
together, when all the servants of the home have been coloured, and the
children have grown up on the plantations with their little black
playmates. There has been a good deal in the easy good-nature of the
negro which the Southern white man has always found sympathetic, and he
responded in former times to the disinterested faithfulness of the
slaves with a real attachment. And although this may have been such
fondness as one feels for a faithful dog or an intelligent horse, there
was in it, nevertheless, no trace of that physical repulsion felt by the
Northerner. The same is fundamentally true to-day, and the rhetorical
emphasis of the physical antipathy toward the black which one finds in
Southern speeches is certainly in part hypocritical. It is true that
even to-day the poorest white man would think himself too good to marry
the most admirable coloured woman; but the reason of this would lie in
social principles, and not, as politicians would like to make it appear,
in any instinctive racial aversion, since so long as the negroes were in
slavery the whites had no aversion to such personal contamination.

The great opposition which now exists is two-fold: it is on the one hand
political and on the other social. The political situation of the South
has been indeed dominated in the last forty years by the negro question.
There have been four distinct periods of development; the first goes
from the end of the Civil War to 1875. It was the time when the negro
had first received the suffrage and become a political factor, the most
dreary time which the South ever knew. It was economically ruined, was
overrun with a disgusting army of unscrupulous politicians, who wanted
nothing but to pervert the ignorant coloured voters for the lowest
political ends. The victorious party in the North sent its menials down
to organize the coloured quarry, and by mere numbers to outdo all
independent activities of the white population.

One can easily understand why a Southern historian should say that the
Southern States look back without bitterness on the years of the war,
when brave men met brave men on the field of battle; but that they are
furious when they remember the years which followed, when the victors,
partly out of mistaken philanthropy, partly out of thoughtlessness and
indifference, and partly out of evil intent, hastened to put the reins
of government into the hands of a race which was hardly out of African
barbarism; and thus utterly disheartened the men and women who had built
up the splendid culture of the Old South. Perhaps there was no phase of
American history, he says, so filled with poetry and romantic charm as
the life of the South in the last ten years before the war; and
certainly no period has been so full of mistakes, uncertainties, and
crime as the decade immediately following. A reaction had to come, and
it came in the twenty years between 1875 and 1895. The South betook
itself to devious methods at the ballot-box. It was recognized that
falsification of election returns was an evil, but it was thought to be
a worse evil for the country to be handed over to the low domination of
illiterate negroes. The political power of the negro has been broken in
this way. Again and again the same method was resorted to, until finally
the public opinion of the South approved of it, and those who juggled
with the ballot-box were not pursued by the arm of the law, because the
general opinion was with them.

There has been another and more important fact. Slowly all party
opposition between the whites vanished, and the race question became the
sole political issue. To be sure, there have been free-traders and
protectionists in the South, and representatives of all other party
principles; but all genuine party life flagged and all less important
distinctions vanished at the ballot-box when the whites rallied against
the blacks, and since the negroes voted invariably with the Republican
party, which had set them free, the entire white population of the South
has become Democratic. By this political consolidation, the power of the
negro has been further restricted.

People have gradually become convinced, however, that political life
stagnates when large states have only the one fixed idea, as if
hypnotized by the race issue. The need has been felt anew of
participating once more in all the great problems which interest the
nation and which create the parties. The South looks back longingly on
the time when it used to furnish the most brilliant statesmen of the
nation. The South has become also aware that so soon as public opinion
allows a systematic corruption of the ballot-box, then every kind of
selfishness and corruption has an easy chance to creep in.

Let once the election returns be falsified in order to wipe out a negro
majority, and they may be falsified the next time in favour of some
commercial conspiracy. An abyss opens up which is truly bottomless. So a
third period has arrived. In place of nullifying the negro suffrage by
illegal means, the South has been thinking out legal measures for
limiting it. The Constitution prescribes merely that no one shall be
deprived of his vote by reason of his colour, but it has been left to
the several states to determine what the other conditions shall be which
govern the right to vote. Thus any state is free to place a certain
property condition, or to require a certain degree of education from
every man who votes; but all such conditions must apply to all
inhabitants of the state alike; thus, for instance, in four states, and
only in those four, do women enjoy the suffrage. Now the Southern States
have commenced to make extensive use of this state privilege. They are
not allowed to exclude the negro as a negro since the Northern States
have added the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution, and there would
be no hope of altering this. But so long as the educational status of
the negro is so far behind that of the white man, the number of those
who cannot read is still so large that a heavy blow is struck at negro
political domination when a state decides to restrict the suffrage to
those who can read and understand the Constitution. It is clear that at
the same time the test of this which necessarily has to be made leaves
the coveted free-play to the white man’s discretion.

The last few years have witnessed a great advance of this new movement.
The political power of the negro is less than ever, and the former
illegal measures to circumvent it are no longer needed. It cannot be
denied that in two ways this works directly in the interests of
civilization. On the one hand, it incites the negro population to take
measures for the education of its children, since by going to school the
negro can comply with the conditions of suffrage. On the other hand, it
frees Southern politics from the oppressive race question, and allows
real party problems to become once more active issues among the whites.
The political contrast is, therefore, to-day somewhat lessened, although
both parties regard it rather as a mere cessation of hostilities; since
it is by no means certain that Northern political forces at Washington
will not once more undo this infringement on the negroes’ rights, and
whether once more, in case of a real party division between the Southern
whites, the negroes will not have the deciding vote. If the
doctrinarianism of the North should actually prevail and be able to set
aside these examinations in reading and in intelligence which have been
aimed against the negro, on the ground that they are contrary to the
Constitution, it would indeed frustrate a great movement toward
political peace. When the abolitionists at the end of the Civil War
granted the suffrage to the negroes, they were at least able to adduce
one very good excuse; they claimed that the Southern States would
continue in some new form to hold the negro in subjection if he was not
protected by either a military guard or by his right to vote, and since
the army was to be disbanded the right to vote was given him. To-day
there is no such danger; the legal exclusion of the Southern negro from
the ballot-box must be accounted an advance.

The social question, however, is even more important to-day than the
political one, and it is one which grows day by day. We have said
already that the Southerner has no instinctive aversion to the negro
race, and his desire for racial purity is not an instinct but a theory,
of which the fathers of the present white man knew nothing. To be sure,
the situation cannot be simply formulated, but it probably comes nearest
to the truth to say that the white man’s hatred is the inherited
instinct of the slave-holder. In all his sentiments the Southerner is
dominated by the once natural feeling that the negro is his helpless
subject. The white man is not cruel in this; he wants to protect the
negro and to be kind, but he can allow him no will of his own. He has
accustomed himself to the slavish obedience of the negro, as the
opium-eater is accustomed to his opium. And to give up the paralyzing
drug is intolerable to his nervous system.

The everywhere repeated cry that the purity of the race is in danger, if
social equality is established, is only a pretext; it is in truth the
social equality itself which calls forth the hysterical excitement. No
white man, for instance, in the South would go into the dining-room of a
hotel in which a single negro woman should be sitting; but this is not
because a mere proximity would be disagreeable, as it would actually be
to the Northerner, but because he could not endure such appearance of
equality. So soon as a little white child sits beside the negro woman,
so that she is seen to be a servant and her socially inferior station is
made plain, then her presence is no longer felt to be at all

In his fight against social equality with the negro, the Southerner
resorts to more and more violent means; and while he works himself up to
an increasing pitch of excitement by the energy of his opposition, the
resulting social humiliation increases the embitterment of the negro.
That no white hotel, restaurant, theatre, or sleeping-car is open to the
black is a matter of course; this is virtually true also in the North.
But it has contributed very much to renewed disaffection, that also the
ordinary railroad trains and street cars begin to make a similar

The South is putting a premium on every kind of harsh social affront to
the black man, and relentlessly punishes the slightest social
recognition. When the president of a negro college was the guest of a
Northern hotel and the chamber-maid refused to put his room to rights
and was therefore dismissed, the South got together, by a popular
subscription, a large purse for this heroine. It is only from this point
of view that one can understand the great excitement which swept through
the South when President Roosevelt had the courage to invite to his
table Booker T. Washington, the most distinguished negro of the country.
Professor Basset, the historian, has declared, amid the fierce
resentment of the South, that, with the exception of General Lee, Booker
Washington is the greatest man who has been born in the South for a
hundred years. But who inquires after the merits of a single man when
the principle of social inequality is at stake? If the President had
worked for several months from early to late at his desk with Booker T.
Washington, the fact would have passed unnoticed. But it is simply
unpardonable that he invited him to the luncheon table, and even very
thoughtful men have shaken their heads in the opinion that this affront
to the social superiority of the white man will very sadly sharpen the
mutual antagonism.

We must not overlook in this connection the various minor circumstances
which have strengthened the lingering feeling of the slave-owner. First
of all, there is the unrestrained sensuality of the negro, which has led
him time after time to attempt criminal aggressions on white women, and
so contributed infinitely to the misery of his situation. It is a gross
exaggeration when the Southern demagogue reiterates again and again that
no man in the South can feel that his wife, his sister, or daughter is
secure from the bestiality of the blacks; and yet it cannot be denied
that such crimes are shockingly frequent, and they are the more
significant, since the continual fear of this danger seriously threatens
the growth of farming life with its lonely farm-houses. Here the
barbarities of lynch law have come in, and the rapid growth of racial
hatred may be seen in the increased number of lynchings during recent
years. But every lynching reacts to inoculate hatred and cruel ferocity
in the public organism, and so the bestial instincts and the lawless
punishments work together to debase the masses in the Southern States.

It is not only a question of the immorality of the negro and the lynch
courts of the white man, but in other ways the negro shows himself
inclined to crime, and the white man to all sorts of lawless acts
against him. The negroes are disproportionately represented in Southern
prisons, although this comes partly from the fact that the black man is
punished for the slightest misdemeanour, while the white man is readily
let off. In fact, it is difficult in the South to find a jury to convict
a white man of any crime done against a negro. This application of a
two-fold standard of justice leads quickly to a general arbitrariness
which fits only too well with the natural instincts of the slave-holder.
Arbitrary privileges in place of equal rights have always been the
essential point in his existence, and so it happens that even where no
negroes are in question Southern juries hand down verdicts which
scandalize the whole country. Indeed, there is no doubt that secret
attempts have even been made, in all sorts of devious forms, to
re-establish the state of slavery. For some small misdemeanour negroes
are condemned to pay a very heavy fine, and to furnish this they have to
let themselves out to some sort of contract labour under white masters,
which amounts to the same thing as slavery. Here again the whole country
is horrified when the facts come to be known. But no means have yet been
thought of for lessening the bitter hatred which exists, and so long as
the sharp social contrast remains there will continue to be evasions and
violations of the law, to give vent to the hatred and bitter feeling.

What now may one look for, that shall put an end to these unhappy
doings? The Africans have had their Zionists, who wish to lead them back
to their native forests in Africa, and many people have recently fancied
that the problem would be solved by forcible deportation to the
Philippines. These dreams are useless; nine million people cannot be
dumped on the other side of the ocean, cannot be torn from their homes.
Least of all could they be brought to combine with the entirely
different population of the Philippines. More than that, the South
itself would fight tooth and nail against losing so many labourers; it
would be industrially ruined, and would be more grievously torn up than
it was after the Civil War, if in fact some magic ship could carry every
black to the negro republic of Liberia, on the African coast. For the
same reason it is impracticable to bring together all negroes in one or
two Southern States and leave them to work out their own salvation. In
the first place, no state would be willing to draw this black lot, while
the white population of the other Southern States would suffer fully as
much. The student of social politics, finally, cannot doubt for a moment
that the negro progresses only when he is in constant contact with white
men, and degenerates with fearful speed when he is left to himself.

Among those negroes who have been called to be the leaders of their
people, and who form an independent opinion of the situation, one finds
two very different tendencies. One of these is to reform from the top
down, the other from the bottom up. The energies of Dubois are typical
of the first tendency, Booker Washington’s of the second. Dubois, and
many of the most educated and advanced negroes with him, believe in the
special mission of the negro race. The negro does not want to be, and
ought not to be, a second order of American, but the United States are
destined by Providence to develop two great and diverse but co-operating
peoples, the Americans and the negroes. It is therefore the work of the
African not simply to imitate the white man’s culture, but to develop
independently a special culture suited to his own national traits. They
feel instinctively that a few great men of special physiognomy, two or
three geniuses coming from their race, will do more for the honour of
their people and for the belief in its possibilities, than the slow
elevation of the great mass. They lay strong emphasis on the fact that
in his music, religion, and humour the negro has developed strongly
individual traits, and that the people who forty years ago were in
slavery have developed in a generation under unfavourable circumstances
a number of shining orators, politicians, and writers. Thus they feel a
most natural ambition to make away for the best and strongest, to
elevate them, and to incite them to their highest achievements. The
ideal is thus, in the work of the most gifted leaders to present to the
world a new negro culture, by which the right of independent existence
for the black race in America may be secured.

Booker Washington and his friends wish to go a quieter road; and he has
with him the sympathies of the best white people in the country. They
look for salvation not from a few brilliantly exceptional negroes, but
from the slow and steady enlightenment of the masses; and their real
leaders are to be not those who accomplish great things as individuals,
but rather they who best serve in the slow work of uplifting their
people. These men see clearly that there are to-day no indications of
really great accomplishments and independent feats in the way of
culture, and that such things are hardly to be looked for in the
immediate future. At the very best it is a question of an unusual talent
for imitating an alien culture.

If, then, one can hardly speak of brilliant genius in the upper
strata—and it is to be admitted that Booker Washington himself is not a
really great, independent, and commanding personality—it would be on the
other hand much more distorted to estimate the negro from his lowest
strata, from the lazy and criminal individuals. The great mass of
negroes is uneducated and possesses no manual training for an
occupation; but it is honest, healthy, and fit social material, which
only needs to be trained in order to become valuable to the whole
community. First of all, the negro ought to learn what he has once
learned as a slave—a manual trade; he should perfect himself in work of
the hands or in some honest agricultural occupation, not seek to create
a new civilization, but more modestly to identify his race with the
destinies of the white nation by real, honest, thoughtful, true, and
industrious labour. Brilliant writers they do not need so much as good
carpenters and school-teachers; nor notable individual escapades in the
tourney-field of culture so much as a general dissemination of technical
training. They need schools for manual training and institutes for the
development of technical teachers.

Booker Washington’s own institution in Tuskegee has set the most
admirable example, and the most thoughtful men in the North and South
alike are very ready to help along all his plans. They hope and believe
that so soon as the masses of coloured people have begun to show
themselves somewhat more useful to the industry of the country as
hand-workers, expert labourers, and farmers, that then the mutual
embitterment will gradually die out and the fight for social equality
slowly vanish. For on this point the more thoughtful men do not deceive
themselves; social equality is nothing but a phrase when it is applied
to the relation of millions of people to other millions. Among the
whites themselves no one ever thinks of any real social equality; the
owner of a plantation no more invites his white workmen in to eat with
him than he would invite a coloured man. And when the Southern white
replies scornfully to any one who challenges his prejudices, with the
convincing question, “Would you let your sister marry a nigger?” he is
forgetting, of course, that he himself would not let his sister marry
nine-tenths of the white men of his community. Social equality can be
predicated only of small groups, and in all exactness only of

Thus it might be said that peace is advanced to-day chiefly by the
increasing exertions for the technical industrial education of the black
workman. But it is not to be forgotten that the negro himself, and with
him many philanthropists of the North, comprehends the whole situation
very differently from the Southern supporters of the movement. These
latter are contented with recent tendencies, because the negro’s vote is
curtailed in the political sphere, and because he comes to be classed
socially with the day-labourer and artisan. The negro, however, looks on
this as a temporary stage in his development, and hopes in good time to
outgrow it. He is glad that the election returns are no longer falsified
on his account, and that legal means have been resorted to. But of
course he hopes that he will soon grow beyond these conditions, and be
finally favoured once more with the suffrage, just as any white man is.

It is much the same in the social sphere. He may be satisfied for the
present that the advantages of manual training and farm labour are
brought to the fore, but this must only be to lead his race up step by
step until it has developed from a mere working class to entire social
equality. That which the negro approves for the moment is what any white
man in the Southern States would fix as a permanent condition. And so it
appears that even in this wise no real solution of the problem has been
reached, although a cessation of hostilities has been declared. But all
these efforts on the part of leaders and philanthropists, these
deliberations of the best whites and blacks in both the North and South,
are still far from carrying weight with the general public; and thus,
although the beginnings toward improvement are good, it remains that on
the outside the situation looks to-day darker than ever before.

Whoever frees himself from theoretical doctrines will hardly doubt that
the leading whites of the Southern States have to-day once more the
better insight, since they know the negro better than the Northerners
do. They demand that this limitation of the negro in his political
rights and in his daily occupation shall be permanent, and that thus an
organic situation shall come about in which the negro, although far
removed from an undeserved slavery, shall be equally far from the
complete enjoyment of that civilization which his own race has not
worked out. That is, he is to be politically, economically, and socially
dependent. If this had happened at the outset, the mutual hatred which
now exists would never have been so fierce; and if the African succeeds
materially he will hardly notice the difference, while the white man
will feel with satisfaction that his superiority has been vindicated.
The condition of the island of Jamaica is a good instance in point. Its
inhabitants are strikingly superior to the debased negroes of the
Republic of Hayti.

But it is not to be forgotten that history has repeatedly shown how
impossible it is for a people numbering millions, with limited rights,
to dwell in the midst of an entirely free race. Oppression and injustice
constantly arise from the limitation of rights, and thence grow
retaliation and crime. And the hour in which the American people narrow
down the rights of ten million blacks may be the starting-point for
fearful struggles. The fact remains that the real solution of the
question is nowhere in sight. The negro question is the only really dark
cloud on the horizon of the American nation.

                              CHAPTER NINE
                     _Internal Political Problems_

The problems of population, especially those concerning the immigration
and the negro, have taken considerable of our attention. We shall be
able to survey problems of internal politics more quickly, since we have
already met most of them in considering the American form of government.
The insane programme of those who desire no government at all, that is,
anarchy, is one of the American’s political problems only when the deed
of some foreign assassin gives him a sudden fright. Then all sorts of
propositions are on foot to weed out anarchism stem and root; but after
a little time they subside. One sees how difficult it is to draw the
lines, and the idea of suppressing free political speech is too much
against the fundamental principles of the American democracy. But the
fundamental principles of anarchism, or rather its fundamental
confusions, have so little hope of influencing the conservative ideas of
the Americans, that there need be no fear of anarchism creeping into the
national mind. In so far as there is any such problem in America, it is
connected solely with the question of immigration. Up to the present
time, the government has been content to forbid acknowledged anarchists
to land; but this involves such an un-American intermeddling with
private convictions that the regulation will hardly be tolerated much
longer. The true American, in any case, believes in state ordinances and
loves his governmental machinery.

This apparatus itself of government has many details which offer
problems, indeed, and are much discussed. Some of its elements have been
added recently by President Roosevelt; the most important of them is the
newly created Department of Commerce and Labour. This new division of
the government, with over ten thousand officials, embraces also the
Bureau of Corporations, which is designed to collect statistics
regarding trusts and the overcoming of their influence; but the struggle
promises to be a two-sided one. To the present administration belongs
also the creation of a general staff for the Army, and on this head
there seems to be a unanimous opinion that the Army is distinctly
benefited by the measure. In some other directions, moreover, the
make-up of the Army has become more similar to European models; new
schools of war have been founded and the plan of holding great manœuvres
introduced. The weakness of the military system is that preferments go
according to seniority. It is clear to all that a merely mechanical
advancement of officers is not advantageous to the military service; and
yet everybody is afraid, if the uniform principle is given up and
personal preferment is introduced, that all sorts of regrettable
political and social influences will be brought to bear in the matter.
Many persons see a difficult problem here; the young officer has almost
no incentive to-day to special exertions.

The government has more and various plans with regard to the Navy.
There, too, it seems as if a general staff similar to that of the Army
is indispensable. The steady growth of the Navy itself is assured, since
everyone recognizes that America could not carry out its present policy
without a strong fleet. The fleet, which dates virtually from 1882, won
the hearts of the imperialistic public by its victories at Manila and
Santiago; and its growth is nowhere seriously opposed. Likewise, the
Navy is introducing more large manœuvres. The real difficulty lies in
lack of men; it becomes more and more difficult to get officers and
sailors; and even in the question of manning a ship, the inevitable
negro question plays a part.

There are many open questions also in regard to the diplomatic and
consular service. The United States maintains an uncommonly large number
of consuls, whose enterprise is nowhere contested, but whose
preparation, tact, and personal integrity often leave a good deal to be
desired. Their remuneration through fees contributes a good deal toward
creating unwholesome conditions. The personnel of the diplomatic service
is perhaps still more unequal than that of the consular. Since early
times the United States has had the discernment to send some of its most
distinguished men to fill important ambassadorial positions. At a time
when the international relations of the country were still
insignificant, such a position was often given to distinguished authors
and poets, who represented their country at a foreign court in an
intellectual and cultivated way, and contributed much to its esteem.
This can happen no longer, and yet America has had again and again the
good fortune to send to diplomatic positions men of uncommon caliber;
scholars like Andrew D. White, statesmen like John Hay, and brilliant
jurists like Choate. The danger still subsists, however, that men who
are merely rich, and who have done small services to Senators, expect in
return a diplomatic appointment, for the sake of the social glory. There
is a growing desire to make the diplomatic service a regular career, in
which a man progresses step by step.

As to the postal service, the foremost problem is now that of free
delivery in rural districts. The tremendous extent of the country and
the thinness of its population had at first made it a matter of course
that the farmer should fetch his own mail from the nearest village. The
rural letter-carrier was unknown, as he is still unknown in small towns;
every man in the village goes to the post-office to get his newspapers
and letters. But like every country at the present time, the United
States is trying to check the continual afflux of population into the
cities. It is obvious that specially with the intellectual make-up of
the American, every effort must be made to make rural life less
monotonous and tiresome, and that it is necessary most of all to
establish ready communication between the remote farm-houses and the
rest of the world. The more frequently and easily the farming people
receive their letters and magazines, so much the less do they feel
tempted to leave the soil. For this reason the very expensive rural
delivery has spread rapidly. In the last year nine thousand new
appointments were made in this service. Another important problem
connected with the Post-Office is the fact that it does not pay for
itself, because it carries printed matter at unprofitably low rates, and
in this way has stimulated to an extraordinary degree the sending of
catalogues and advertising matter. One can see how far this goes from
the fact that a short time ago a factory for medicine sent out so many
copies of a booklet advertising its specific through the so-called
“testimonials,” that a railway train with eight large freight cars was
necessary to carry them to the nearest post-office. Part of the
difficulty comes from the private ownership of the railroads, whose
contracts with the government for carrying the mails involve certainly
no loss to the stockholders.

In similar wise, all of the great departments of government have their
problems, large or small, and the most important of these must be dealt
with when we come to speak of the economic situation. But there is one
problem that is common to all branches of the government; it is the most
important one which concerns internal affairs, and although it is
discussed somewhat less actively to-day than in former years, it
continues none the less in some new form or other to worry the parties,
the government, and more especially public opinion. It is the question
of civil-service reform.

We have touched on this question before when we spoke of the struggles
between parties, and of the motives which bring the individual into the
party service. Some things remain to be said by way of completely
elucidating one of the most important problems of American public life.
To commence with, if we abstract from the civil service in city and
state—although the question is much the same there—that is, if we take
into account only the federal service—we find over a hundred thousand
official appointments: and the question is—Shall these appointments,
with their assured salaries, be distributed to adherents of the party in
power, chiefly with reference to their services to the party, or shall
these positions be removed from all touch with the parties and given to
the best and ablest applicants? It is clear that the problem could
easily be so exhibited that the appointment of the best and most capable
applicant, without reference to his party, should seem to be absolutely
and unequivocally necessary, and as if any other opinion could proceed
only from the desire to work corruption. The situation is not quite so
simple, however.

In the first place, every one is aware that the highest administrative
positions are invariably places of confidence, where it is very
necessary that the incumbent shall be one in thought and purpose with
the Executive; and this is more than ever necessary in a democracy
composed of two parties. If the majority of the people elects a certain
President in order to carry out the convictions of one party in
opposition to the other, the will of the people would be frustrated if
the upper members of the governmental staffs were not to be imbued with
the same party ideas. A Republican President could not work together
with a Democratic Secretary of State without sacrificing the efficiency
of his administration, and struggling along on such compromises as would
ultimately make meaningless the existence of two organized parties. A
Republican Secretary of State must have, however, if he is to be spared
a good deal of friction, an assistant secretary of state with whom he is
politically in harmony; and so it goes on down.

But if we begin at the bottom and work up, the situation looks
different. The book-keeper to the ministry, the small postal clerk, or
the messenger boy in the treasury, has no opportunity to realize his
personal convictions. He has merely his regular task to perform, and is
not immediately concerned whether the policy of state is Republican or
Democratic, imperialistic or anti-imperialistic. We have then to
ask—Where lie the boundaries between those higher positions in which the
private convictions of the incumbents ought properly to be with the
administration, and those lower positions where party questions are in
no way involved?

Opinions vary very widely as to where this boundary lies. Some put it
rather low, and insist that the American by his whole political training
is so thoroughly a creature of the party, that true harmony in state
offices can be had only if the whole service from top to bottom is
peopled with adherents of the ruling party; and this opinion, although
it may be refuted on good grounds, is neither absurd nor dishonest. The
population of Germany is divided to-day into a civil and a
social-democratic party, and it appears to the dominant civil party by
no means unnatural to exclude the social-democrats so far as possible
from participation in the public service.

It is quite possible, moreover, for each party to furnish competent
incumbents for all the leading positions; and so long as capable men can
be found who will acquit themselves well in office, there is of course
no reason for charging the party with greed or spoils-gathering, as if
the public funds were a pure gift, and it were unworthy to accept an
official appointment given in recognition of services to the party. We
have already emphasized how extremely German conceptions differ from
American on this point, and how the customary reiteration in Germany of
the unfavourable comments made by certain American reform enthusiasts,
leads to much misunderstanding. It is well-known that Germany has, for
instance, for the university professors a system of state appointment,
which rests wholly on personal recommendation; this in sharp contrast to
England, where the candidates for every vacant chair must compete, and
where no one can be called who does not compete; or with France, where
the positions are awarded on the basis of an examination.

The considerations which we have stated are not at all to be taken as an
argument against civil-service reform, but only as an indication that
the problem is complicated and has its pros and cons. In fact, the
grounds for the widest possible extension of a civil-service independent
of party are many and urgent. In the first place, the service itself
demands it. The appointments by party are really appointments on the
basis of recommendations and wishes of political leaders. The Senators,
for instance, from a certain state advise the President as to who should
be appointed for postmasters in the most important post-offices; and the
smaller positions are similarly filled on the recommendation of less
influential politicians.

Therefore, it is only to a limited extent that there is any real
estimation of the capacity and fitness of the proposed incumbent. Public
opinion is always watchful, however, and the politician is generally
afraid to press an appointment which he knows would be disapproved by
public opinion, or which would later be seen to be absurd, would damage
his own political credit, and perhaps even wreck his political future.

It is equally true that the political parties have become expert in
sifting human material and finding just the right people for the places;
and that, moreover, the American with his extraordinary capacity for
adaptation and organization easily finds himself at home in any position
and fills it creditably. And yet it remains, that in this way the best
intentioned appointer works in the dark, and that a technical
examination would more accurately select the fittest man from among the
various candidates.

Most of all, by this method of appointment on the ground of political
influence, where the petitions of the incumbent’s local friends,
commendatory letters from well-known men, and the thousand devices of
the wire-puller play an important part, the feeling of individual
responsibility is always largely lost. The head of the department must
rely on local representatives, and these politicians again know that
they do not themselves actually make the appointments; and the candidate
is put into office with no exertion on his own part—almost passively.

It is not to be denied that in this way many an unworthy man has come to
office. The very lowest political services have been rewarded with the
best positions. Political candidates have had to promise before their
election to make certain appointments to office which had nothing at all
to do with the fitness of the appointee; and such appointee, when
actually instated, has not only neglected his office, but sometimes
criminally misused it for embezzlement and fraudulent contracts, for
government deals in which he has had some personal advantage, or for the
smuggling in of friends and relatives to inferior positions. Politicians
have too often sought to exact all sorts of devious personal and
political services from those whom they have previously recommended for
office in order to hush them up. Through the intrigues of such men all
sorts of unnecessary positions have been created, in order to provide
for political friends from the public treasury; and the contest for
these personal nominations has consumed untold time and strength in the
legislative chambers. No one can fail to see that such sores will
develop over and over in the political organism so long as the principle
is recognized of making official appointments on the basis of party
allegiance. While criminal misuse of such a practice is the exception,
and the honourable endeavour to pick out the best candidates and their
honest performance of duty are the rule, nevertheless every thoughtful
friend of the country’s welfare must wish to make all such exceptions

There is another unfavourable effect which such a system must have,
within the party itself. A man who is put into office by politicians,
unless he is a strong man, will labour in the interests of his
benefactors, will carry party politics into places where they do not
belong, and be ready to let the party rob him of a certain portion of
his salary as a contribution to the party treasury, as has been
customary for a long time. In this way salaries have been increased in
order that a considerable portion might redound to the party treasury,
and thus the means be won for bringing the party victoriously through
the next elections; and in this way the official has been able to assure
himself as good an office, or perhaps a better one, in the future. The
same thing happens once more in city politics where the funds levied on
city officials have made a considerable share of the party’s assets.
There has been good reason, therefore, why public opinion has for a long
time demanded, and with increasing energy, an entire change in such a
state of things; and aside from the positions of actual confidence, in
which in fact only men of a certain political faith could be of any
service, it has demanded that public offices be put on a non-partisan
basis and given out with a view solely to the efficiency of the

Such a problem hardly existed during the first forty years of American
constitutional government; officials were appointed in a business-like
way. A man in office stayed there as long as he did his duties well, and
the advent of a new party in the higher positions had very little
influence on the lower ones. It was deemed tyranny to dismiss a
competent official in order to put a party adherent in his position. The
statistics show that at that time not more than forty-two changes on the
average were made on such political grounds every year. The opposite
practice first arose in the cities, and especially in New York, whence
it spread to the state, where in 1818 a whole regiment of party
followers was established in the government offices of the state by Van
Buren. And under President Jackson the principle finally became adopted
in the federal government. About the year 1830, it became an unwritten
law that official positions should be the spoils of victory at the
elections and go to the favoured party. People were aware that there was
no better way of getting party adherents to be industrious than to
promise them positions if they would help the party to gain its victory.
The reaction commenced at about the middle of the last century, closely
following on a similar movement in England.

As the power of the English Parliament grew, popular representatives had
demanded their share in the distributing of offices, and an obnoxious
trading in salaries had become prevalent. When at last the abuses became
too frequent, just before the middle of the last century, England
instituted official examinations in order to weed out the obviously
unfit candidates. It was not really a true competition, since the
candidate was still appointed to office by the politicians. But the
examination made sure of a minimal amount of proper training.

The American Congress followed this example during the fifties. Certain
groups of minor positions were made, for which appointment could be had
only after an examination. England now went further on the same course,
and America followed her lead. On both sides of the ocean the
insignificant examination of the candidate who had backing, became a
general examination for all who wished to apply; so that the position
came to be given to the best candidate. The Civil-Service Commission was
instituted by President Grant, and for thirty years its beneficent
influence has steadily grown, and it has made great inroads on the old
system. The regular politicians who could not endure being deprived of
the positions which they wished to pledge to their campaign supporters
have naturally tried time after time to stem the current, and with some
success. In 1875 Congress discontinued the salaries which had been paid
the Commissioners; then competitive examinations were given up, and in
their stead single examinations instituted for candidates who had been
recommended by political influence.

But here, if anywhere, public opinion has been stronger than party
spirit. Under President Hayes, and then under Garfield and Arthur, the
competitive system was partly reinstated, and while the number of
positions which were open only to those who had successfully passed the
public examinations increased, at the same time the reprehensible
taxation of officials for party ends was finally stopped. This did not
prevent a certain smaller number of positions from retaining their
partisan complexion; and the opinions and party creed of these
incumbents continued to be important, so that whenever one party
succeeded another, a certain amount of change was still necessary. So
there remain two great divisions of the public service—the political
offices which the President fills by appointment in co-operation with
the Senate, and the so-called “classified” offices which are given out
on the basis of public examinations. Public opinion and the sincere
supporters of civil-service reform, among whom is President Roosevelt
himself, are working all the time for an increase in the number of
classified positions and a corresponding decrease in the political

The open opponents of this movement, of whom there are many in both
parties, are hard at work in the opposite direction, and are too often
supported by the faint-hearted friends of the reform, who recognize its
theoretical advantages, but have some practical benefit to derive by
pursuing the methods which they decry. There is no doubt that again in
the last ten years some steps have been taken backward, and on various
pretexts many important positions have been withdrawn from the
classified service and restored to Senatorial patronage.

The actual situation is as follows. There are 114,000 non-classified
positions, with a total salary of $45,000,000, and 121,000 classified
positions which bring a salary of $85,000,000. Among the former, where
no competition exists, over 77,000 are postmasterships; then there are
consular, diplomatic, and other high positions, and a large number of
places for labourers. In the classified service, there are 17,000
positions for officials who live in Washington, 5,000 of which are in
the treasury. The committees on the commission have about 400 different
kinds of examinations to give. Last year 47,075 persons were examined
for admission to the civil service; 21,000 of these for the government
service, 3,000 for the customs, and 21,000 for the postal service. There
were about 1,000 examinations more for advancements in office and
exchange from one part of the service to another, and 439 persons were
examined for service in the Philippines. Out of all these applicants
33,739 passed the examinations, and of these 11,764 obtained positions
which are theirs for life, independent of any change which may take
place at the White House. It is a matter of course that the security
which these positions give of life-long employment is the highest
incentive to faithful service and conscientious and industrious labour.

The difference between the two services was again clearly brought out in
the last great scandal, which greatly stirred up the federal
administration. The Post-Office Department had closed a number of
contracts for certain utensils from which certain officials, or at least
their relatives, made considerable profits. Everything had been most
discreetly hidden, and it took an investigation of several months to
uncover the crookedness. But when everything had come out, it appeared
that the officials who were seriously involved all belonged to the
unclassified service, while the classified service of the Post-Office
was found to be an admirable example of conscientious and faithful
office-holding. Certain it is that such criminal misuse, even among the
confidential positions, is a rare exception; it is no less sure that the
temptations are much greater there. A man who holds office, not because
he is peculiarly fitted for it, but because he has been generally useful
in politics, knowing as he does that the next time the parties change
places his term of office will be up, will always be too ready to use
his position for the party rather than for the country, and finally for
himself and his pocket-book rather than for his party.

Now, if civil-service reform is to spread or even to take no steps
backward, public opinion must be armed for continual battle against
party politicians. But it is an insult to the country when, as too often
happens, some one tries to make it appear that the opponents of reform
are consciously corrupt. The difficulty of the problem lies just in the
fact that most honourable motives may be uppermost on both sides; and
one has to recognize this, although one may be convinced that the
reformer has the better arguments on his side. The filling of positions
by party adherents, as a reward for their services, puts an
extraordinary amount of willing labour at the service of the party. And
undoubtedly the party system is necessary in America, and demands for
its existence just such a tremendous amount of work. The non-classified
positions are to the American party politicians exactly what the orders
and titles which he can award are to the European monarch; and the
dyed-in-the-wool party leader would in all honesty be glad to throw
overboard the whole “humbug” of civil-service reform, since he would
rather see his party victorious—that is, his party principles
acknowledged in high federal places—than see his country served as
economically, faithfully, and ably as possible. In fact, the regular
party politician has come to look on the frequent shake-up among
office-holders as an ideal condition. Just as no President can be
elected more than twice, he conceives it to be unsound and un-American
to leave an official too long in any one position.

The full significance of the problem comes out when one realizes that
the same is true once more in the separate state, and again in every
municipality. The states and cities have their classified service,
appointment to which is independent of party allegiance, as of governor
or mayor, and in addition to this confidential positions for which the
governor and legislature or the mayor and city council are responsible.
Municipal service has attracted an increasing amount of public attention
in recent years, owing to the extremely great abuses which it can

Fraudulent contracts, the grant of handsome monopolies to street
railway, gas, electric-light, telephone, and pier companies, the
purchase of land and material for public buildings, and the laying out
of new streets—all these things, owing to the extraordinarily rapid
growth of municipalities, afford such rich opportunities for theft, and
this can be so easily hidden from the state attorney, that frightfully
large numbers of unscrupulous people have been attracted into public
life. And the more that purely municipal politics call for a kind of
party service which is very little edifying or interesting to a
gentleman in frock and silk hat, so much the more other kinds of men
force their way into politics in large cities and get control of the
popular vote, not in order to support certain principles, but to secure
for themselves positions from the winning party, of which the salary is
worth something and the dishonest perquisites may be “worth” a great
deal more. Even here again the service to the city is not necessarily
bad, and certainly not so bad as the scandal-mongering press of the
opposite party generally represents it. Most of the office-holders are
decent people, who are contented with the moderate salary and modest
social honour of their positions. Nevertheless, a good deal that is
impure does creep in, and the service would be more efficient if it
could be made independent of the party machine. Public opinion is sure
of this.

Each party is naturally convinced that the greatest blame belongs with
the other, and in strict logic one can no more accuse one party of
corruption than the other. The Republican party in a certain sense whets
the general instinct for greed more than the Democratic, so that its
opponents like to call it “the mother of corruption.” It is a part of
the Republican confession of faith, in consequence of its centralizing
spirit, that the state cannot leave everything to free competition, but
must itself exert a regulating influence; thus the Republican does not
believe in free-trade, and he thinks it quite right for an industry or
any economic enterprise which is going badly, or which fancies that it
is not prospering enough, or which for any reason at all would like to
make more money, to apply to the state for protection, and to be
favoured at the expense of the rest of the community. The principle of
complete equality is here lost, and the spirit of preference, of favours
for the few against the many, and of the employment of public credit for
the advantage of the avaricious, is virtually recognized. And when this
spirit has once spread and gone through all party life, there is no way
of preventing a situation in which every one applies to the public funds
for his own enrichment, and the strongest industries secure monopolies
and influence the legislatures in their favour by every means which the
party has at its disposal.

The Democrats, on the other hand, desire equal rights for all, and free
competition between all economic enterprises; they approve of all
centrifugal and individualistic tendencies. And yet if the state does
not exert some regulative influence, the less moral elements of society
will misuse their freedom, and they will be freer in the end than the
citizens who scrupulously and strictly govern themselves. And the spirit
of unrestraint and immorality will be ever more in evidence. The
Democratic party will be forced to make concessions to this idea if it
desires to retain its domination over the masses, and any one who first
begins to make concessions to individual crookedness is necessarily
inoculated. Thus it happens that in the Republican party there is a
tendency to introduce corruption from above, and in the Democratic party
from below.

If in a large town, say, the Republican party is dominant, the chief
public enemies will be the industrial corporations, with their
tremendous means and their watered securities; but if the Democratic
party is uppermost, the worst enemies will be the liquor dealers,
procurers, and gamblers. Correspondingly, in the former case, the honour
of the city council which closes huge contracts with stock companies
will succumb, while in the latter it will be the conscience of the
policeman on the corner who pockets a little consideration when the
bar-keeper wants to keep open beyond the legal hour. And since the
temptation to take small bribes are ten thousand times more frequent
than the chances for graft on a large scale, the total damage to public
morals is about the same in both cases. But we must repeat once more
that these delinquencies are after all the exception rather than the
rule, and happily are for the most part expiated behind the bars of a

Most of all, it must be insisted that public opinion is all the time
following up these excrescences on party life, and that public opinion
presses forward year by year at an absolutely sure pace, and purifies
the public atmosphere. All these evil conditions are easy to change.
When Franklin came to England he was alarmed to see what fearful
corruptions prevailed in English official life; such a thing was unknown
at that time in America. Now England has long ago wiped out the blot,
and America, which fell into its political mire a half-century later,
will soon be out again and free; just as it has got rid of other
nuisances. Every year brings some advance, and the student of American
conditions should not let himself be deceived by appearances.

On the surface, for instance, the last mayoralty election in New York
City would seem to indicate a downward tendency. New York two years
previously had turned out the scandalous Tammany Hall gang with Van Wyck
and his brutal extortionist, Chief of Police Devery, by a non-partisan
alliance of all decent people in the city. New York had elected by a
handsome majority Seth Low, the President of Columbia University, to be
its mayor, and thereby had instated the principle that, the best
municipal government must use only business methods and be independent
of political parties. Seth Low was supported by distinguished reformers
in both parties, and was brilliantly successful in placing the entire
city government on a distinctly higher level. The public schools, the
general hygiene, the highways, and the police force were all thoroughly
cleansed of impure elements and reformed without regard to party, on the
purest and most business-like principle.

And then came the day for another election. Once more the independent
voters, including the best men in both parties, the intellectual leaders
and the socially dominant forces of the city, were banded together again
to save their city of three million inhabitants from party politics, and
to insure by their co-operation a continuance of the honest,
business-like administration. They made Seth Low their candidate again;
he was opposed by McClellan, the candidate of Tammany Hall, the party
which loudly declares that “To the victors belong the spoils,” and that
the thousands of municipal offices are to be the prey of party
adherents. This was the candidate of the party which admitted that all
the hopes of the worst proletariat, of prostitution and vagabondage,
depended on its success; the candidate of a party which declared that it
would everywhere rekindle the “red light,” that it would not enforce the
unpopular temperance laws, and that it would leave the city “wide open.”
On the day of election 251,000 votes were cast for Mayor Low, but
313,000 for Colonel McClellan.

Now, does this really indicate that the majority of the city of New York
consists of gamblers, extortioners, and criminals? One who read the
Republican campaign literature issued before the election might suppose
so. After reading on every street corner and fence and on giant banners
the campaign cry, “Vote for Low and keep the grafters out,” one might
think that 300,000 pick-pockets had united to force out a clean
administration and to place corruption on the throne. But on looking
more closely at the situation one must see that no such thing was in
question. Seth Low had furnished a clean administration, yet not a
perfect one, and his mistakes had so seriously disaffected many citizens
that they would rather endure the corruption of Tammany Hall than the
brusqueness and various aggravations which threatened from his side.

Of these grievances, a typical one was the limitation of German
instruction in the public schools. From the pedagogical point of view,
this was not wholly wrong; and leading educationists, even German ones,
had recommended the step. But at the same time the great German
population was bitterly offended, and the whole discussions of the
school board had angered the German citizens enough to cool off
considerably their enthusiasm for reform. Then on top of this, Low’s
administration had rigorously enforced certain laws of Sunday observance
which the German part of the population cordially hated. Here, too,
Mayor Low was undoubtedly right; he was enforcing the law; but when two
years previously he had wished to win over the German vote, he had
promised more than he could fulfill. But, most of all, Seth Low was
socially an aristocrat, who had no common feeling with the masses; and
whenever he spoke in popular assemblies he displayed no magnetism. Every
one felt too keenly that he looked down on them from his exalted social

Against him were the Tammany people, of whom at least one thing must be
said: they know the people and their needs. They have grown up among the
people. In contrast to many a Republican upstart who, according to the
European fashion, is servile to his superiors and harsh with his
inferiors, these Tammany men are harsh to their superiors—that is, they
shake the nerves of the more refined—but are servile before the masses
and comply with every wish. And most of all, they are really the friends
of the populace, sincerely true and helpful to it. Moreover, just these
great masses have more to suffer under a good administration than under
the corrupt government which lets every one do as he likes. These people
do not notice that the strict, hygienic administration reduced the
death-rate and the list of casualties, and improved the public schools;
but they notice when for such improvements they have to pay a cent more
in taxation, or have to put safer staircases or fire-escapes on their
houses, or to abandon tottering structures, or if they are not allowed
to beg without a permit, or are forbidden to throw refuse in the
streets. In short, these people notice a slight expense or an
insignificant prohibition, and do not see that in the end they are
greatly benefited. And so, when the day of reckoning comes, when the
election campaigns are fought, in which distinguished reformers deliver
scholarly addresses on the advantages of a non-partisan administration
while the candidates of the people excite them with promises that they
shall be free from all these oppressive burdens—it is no wonder that
Seth Low is not returned to the City Hall, and that McClellan, who by
the way is a highly educated and cultured politician, is entrusted with
the city government.

Such an outcome is not a triumph for vice and dishonour. In two years
the reformers will probably conquer again, since every administration
makes its enemies and so excites opposition. But there can be no doubt
that even on this occasion public opinion, with its desire to reform,
has triumphed, although the official friends of reform were outdone;
such a man as the former Chief of Police, Devery, will be impossible in
the future. Public opinion sees to it that when the two parties stand in
opposition the fight is fought each successive time on a higher level.
And Tammany of to-day as compared with the Tammany of years gone by is
the best evidence for the victory of public opinion and the reformers.

                              CHAPTER TEN
                     _External Political Problems_

The attitude of America in international affairs can hardly be referred
to any one special trait of mind. If one were to seek a simple formula,
one would have to recognize in it a certain antithesis of mood; an
opposition which one encounters in the American people under the most
varied circumstances, and which perhaps depends on the fact that it is a
people which has developed an entirely new culture, although on the
basis of the high culture of the Old World. When we come to speak of
American intellectual life we shall have again to consider this
extraordinary combination of traits. The people are youthful and yet
mature; they are fresher and more spontaneous than those of other mature
nations, and wiser and more mature than those of other youthful nations;
and thus it is that in the attitude of the Americans toward foreign
affairs the love of peace and the delight in war combine to make a
contrast which has rarely been seen. Doubtless there is an apparent
contradiction here, but this contradiction is the historical mark of the
national American temperament; and it is not to be supposed that the
contradiction is solved by ascribing these diverse opinions to diverse
elements in the population, by saying, for instance, that one group of
citizens is more warlike, another more peaceable; that perhaps the love
of hostile interference springs from the easily excited masses, while
the love of peace is to be sought in their more thoughtful leaders, or
that perhaps, on the other hand, the masses are peaceably industrious
while their leaders draw them into war.

Such is not at all the case. There is not any such contrast between the
masses and the classes; personal differences of opinion there are and
some individuals are more volatile than others, but the craze for
expansion in its newest form finds strong supporters and violent
opponents in all parties and occupations. The most characteristic
feature is, that just those who show the love for war most energetically
are none the less concerned, and most earnestly so, for the advance of
peace. President Roosevelt is the most striking example of the profound
combination of these opposing tendencies in one human breast.

Every movement toward peace, in fact every international attempt toward
doing away with the horrors of war, has found in the New World the most
jealous and enthusiastic supporters; whenever two nations have come to
blows the sympathies of the Americans have always been on the side of
the weaker nation, no matter which seemed to be the side of justice. And
the mere circumstance that two nations have gone to war puts the
stronger power in a bad light in the eyes of America.

The nation has grown strong by peaceful industry; its greatest strength
has lain in trade and the arts, its best population has come across the
ocean in order to escape the military burdens of Europe; and the policy
of the founders of the Republic, now become a tradition, was always to
hold aloof from any dealings with the quarrelsome continent of Europe.
During the short time of its existence, the United States has settled
forty-nine international disputes in a peaceable court of arbitration,
and oftentimes these have been in extremely important matters; and
America has been a party in over half of the disputes which have been
settled before a court of arbitration in recent times. America was an
important participant in the founding of the Peace Tribunal at The
Hague. When negotiations for that tribunal threatened to be frustrated
by the opposing nations of Europe, the American government sent its
representatives to the very centre of the opposition, and won a victory
for the side of peace.

It is almost a matter of course that it is the munificent gift of an
American which has erected a palace at The Hague for this international
Peace Tribunal. While the European nations are groaning under the burden
of their standing armies, and are weakened by wars over religious
matters or the succession of dynasties, happy America knows nothing of
this; her pride is the freedom of her citizens, her battles are fought
out at the ballot-box. The disputes between sects and royal houses are
unknown in the New World; its only neighbours are two oceans on the east
and west, and on the north and south good friends. No end of progress
remains to be made, but everything works together under the protection
of the American Constitution to produce a splendid home in the New World
for peace. America is the one world power which makes for peace; and it
will only depend on the future growth of this nation, which has been
ordained to become such an example, whether the idea of peace will
finally prevail throughout the world over the immoral settlement of
disputes by mere force of arms.

All this is not merely the programme of a party or of a group of people,
but the confession of faith of every American. The American finds no
problem here, since none would dispute the contention. It has all
impressed itself so fully on the consciousness of the American people
that it gives to the whole nation a feeling of moral superiority. Nor is
this merely the pathos uttered in moral orations; it is the conviction
with which every child grows up and with which every farmer goes to his
plough, every artisan and merchant to his machine and desk, and the
President to his executive chamber. And this conviction is so admirable
that it has always been contagious, and all Europe has become quite
accustomed to considering the Republic across the water as the firmest
partisan of peace. The Republic has in fact been this, is now, and
always will be so; while the riddle is—how it can be such a friend of
peace when it was conceived in war, has settled its most serious
problems by war, has gone to war again and again, has almost played with
declarations of war, is at war to-day, and presumably will be at war
many times again.

The Spanish war has shown clearly to European onlookers the other side
of the shield, and many have at once concluded that the boasted American
love of peace has been from the first a grand hypocrisy, that at least
under McKinley’s administration an entirely new spirit had suddenly
seized the New World. But McKinley’s predecessor, Cleveland, in the
disputes arising between England and Venezuela, had waved the sabre
until it hissed so loudly that it was not at all due to the American
love of peace but rather to England’s preoccupation in the Transvaal
which prevented the President’s message and the national love of
interference from stirring up a war. And it is now several years since
the successor of McKinley moved into the White House, yet McKinley’s war
is still going on; for although a war has never been officially declared
in the Philippines, war seems the only correct name for the condition
which there prevails.

This Philippine question is a real political problem. That America is to
serve the interests of peace is certain; every one is agreed on that;
and the great majority of the people was also enthusiastically in favour
of ending the Spanish misrule in Cuba. But the same is not true of the
war in the Philippines, and becomes less true every day. The enthusiasts
have subsided, the masses have become indifferent, while the politicians
carry on the discussion; and since it is a question of motives which
cannot be put aside for the present, and which at any time may so excite
the nation as to become the centre of political discussion, it is well
worth while to look more fully into these points.

The imperialists say that the events in the Pacific Ocean have followed
exactly the traditions of the land; that expansion has always been a
fundamental instinct of the nation; that its whole development shows
that from the day when the Union was founded it commenced to increase
its territory. The tremendous expansion gained by the purchase of
Louisiana was followed by the annexation of Florida, and still later by
that of the great tract called Texas. In the war with Mexico the region
between Texas and California was acquired. Alaska was next gathered in.
The narrow strip originally occupied by the Thirteen States became a
huge country within a century, and thus the nation simply remains true
to its traditions in stretching out over the ocean and carrying the
Stars and Stripes toward Asia.

To this the anti-imperialists reply, on the contrary, that the United
States is repudiating an honourable history and trampling down that
which has been sacred for centuries. For if there has been any
underlying principle at all to guide the United States in moments of
perplexity, it has been a firm faith in the rights of people to govern
themselves. The United States has never exchanged or acquired a foot of
land without the consent of those who dwelt thereon. Where such lands
have held nothing but the scattered dwellings of isolated colonists
there existed no national consent to be consulted, and where there were
no people no national self-government could come in question; neither
Louisiana, California, nor Alaska was settled by a real nation, and
Texas had of itself decided to become independent of Mexico. But the
Philippines are inhabited by ten million people, with striking national
traits and an organized will; and the United States, for the first time
in history, now misuses its strength by oppressing another nation and
forcing its own will on a prostrate people.

Now the imperialists reply they do not mean at all to dispute the right
of self-government, a principle on which the greatness of our nation is
founded. But it is a narrow and absurd conception of self-government
which regards every people, however backward and unruly, capable
thereof, and divinely privileged to misrule itself. The right of
self-government must be deserved; it is the highest possession of
civilized nations, and they have earned it by labour and
self-discipline. The Americans derive their right to govern themselves
from the toil of thirty generations. The Filipinos have still to be
educated up to such a plane. To this the anti-imperialists enquire, Is
that to be called education which subdues, like rebels, a people
desirous of freedom? Are you helping those people by sending soldiers to
assert your sovereignty?

And the imperialists reply again that we have sufficiently shown, in the
case of Cuba, how seriously we take our moral obligations toward weaker
peoples. When we had done away by force of arms with all Spanish
domination in America, and had Cuba quite in our power, all Europe was
convinced that we should never relax our hold, and that the war would
result simply in a mere annexation of the rich island; in short, that we
should pursue a typical European policy. But we have shown the world
that America does not send her sons to battle merely for aggrandizement,
but only in a moral cause; just as we demanded of the conquered
Spaniards no indemnity, so we have made a general sacrifice for Cuba. We
have laboured tirelessly for the hygiene and the education of the
island, have strengthened its trade and awakened to new life the country
which had been desolated by Spanish misrule, and, having finished the
work, we have restored to Cuba her freedom and her right of
self-government; and we recognize that we owe a similar duty to the
Philippines. We have not sought to obtain those islands. At the outset
of the war no American foresaw that the island kingdom in the tropics,
ten thousand miles away, would fall into our hands; but when the chain
of events brought it about, we could not escape the call of duty. Were
we to leave the discontented Philippine population once more to the
cruelty of their Spanish masters, or were we to displace the Spaniards
and then leave the wild race of the islands to their own anarchy, and
thus invoke such internal hostilities as would again wipe out all the
beginnings which had been made toward culture? Was it not rather our
duty to protect those who turned to us, against the vengeance of their
enemies, and before all else to establish order and quietude? The
anti-imperialists retort—the quietude of a grave-yard. If America’s
policy had been truly unselfish, it should have made every preparation
for dealing with the Philippines as it had dealt with Cuba; instead of
fighting with the Filipinos we should at once have co-operated with
Aguinaldo and sent over a civil instead of a military regiment. Nor is
the world deceived into supposing that our boasted civil rule in the
Philippines is anything more than a name, used in order somewhat to
pacify the sentimentalists of the New England States; while in reality
our rule is a military one, and the small success of a few well-meaning
civil officials merely distracts the world’s attention from the constant
outbreaks of war. We have not worked from the point of view of the
Philippines, but from that of the United States.

The imperialists answer that it is no disgrace to have been patriotic to
our Fatherland; the national honour requires us, indeed, to remain for
the present in the Philippines, and not to take down the flag which we
have hoisted so triumphantly. We should not flee before a few
disaffected races living in those islands. Then the other side replies,
you have not protected the honour of your nation, but you have worked
its disgrace. The honour of America has been the moral status of its
army; it was America’s boast that its army had never lost the respect of
an enemy, and that it had held strictly aloof from every unnecessary
cruelty. But America has learned a different lesson in the Philippines,
and such a one as all thoughtful persons have foreseen; for when a
nation accustomed to a temperate climate goes to the tropics to war with
wild races which have grown up in cruelty and the love of revenge, it
necessarily forgets its moral standards, and gives free rein to the
lowest and worst that is in it. The American forces have learned there,
to their disgrace, to conquer by deception and trickery; to be cruel and
revengeful, and so return torture for torture.

Then the imperialists say that this is not a question of the army which
was landed in the tropical islands, but of the whole American people,
which undertook new duties and responsibilities for the islands, and
wished to try, not only its military, but also its political, economic,
and social powers along new lines. A people also must grow and have its
higher aspirations. The youthful period of the American nation is over;
manhood has arrived, when new and dangerous responsibilities have to be
assumed. To this the anti-imperialists reply, that a nation is surely
not growing morally when it gives up the principles which have always
been its sole moral strength. If it gives up believing in the freedom of
every nation and carries on a war of subjugation, it has renounced all
moral development, and instead of growing it begins internally to decay.
But this, the imperialists say, is absurd—since, outwardly, at least, we
are steadily growing; our reputation before other nations is increasing
with our military development; we have become a powerful factor in the
powers of the world, and our Philippine policy shows that our navy can
conquer even in remote parts of the earth, and that in the future
America will be a power to reckon with everywhere. But, on the contrary,
say the others, our nation held a strong position so long as, in
accordance with the Monroe Doctrine, it was able to keep any European
power from getting a foothold on the American continents, and so long as
we made the right of self-government a fundamental principle of our
international politics. But the instant we adopted a policy of conquest
and assumed the right to subjugate inferior peoples because our armies
were the stronger, the Monroe Doctrine became at once and for the first
time an empty phrase, if not a piece of arrogance. We are no better than
the next nation; we have no right to prevent others from acting like
ourselves, and we have sacrificed our strong position, and shall be led
from war to war, and the fortunes of war are always uncertain.

The imperialists reply somewhat more temperately:—Ah, but the new
islands will contribute very much to our trade. Their possession means
the beginning of a commercial policy which will put the whole Pacific
Ocean at the disposal of the American merchant. Who can foresee what
tremendous developments may come from availing ourselves of regions
lying so advantageously? When Congress in 1803 started to buy the great
Province of Louisiana from France, there were also narrow-minded
protests. At that time, too, anti-imperialists and fanatics became
excited, and said that it was money thrown away; the land would never be
populated. While to-day, a hundred years later, the world prepares to
celebrate the anniversary of the purchase of Louisiana by a magnificent
exposition at St. Louis—a transaction which has meant for the country a
tremendous gain in wealth and culture. America is destined to be the
mistress of the Pacific Ocean, and as soon as the canal is built across
the isthmus the economic importance of the Philippines will appear more
clearly every day. The anti-imperialists deny this. The financial
statement of the entire war with Spain to the present moment shows that
$600,000,000 have been wasted and ten thousand young men sacrificed
without any advantage being so much as in sight. Whereto the
imperialists reply:—There are other advantages. War is a training. The
best thing which the nation can win is not riches, but strength; and in
the very prosperity of America the weakening effect of luxury is greatly
to be feared. The nerves of the nation are steeled in the school of war,
and its muscles hardened. But the other side says that our civilization
requires thousands of heroic deeds of the most diverse kinds, more than
it needs those of the field of battle; and that the American doctrine of
peace is much better adapted to strengthen the moral courage of the
nation and to stimulate it than the modern training of war, which, in
the end, is only a question of expenditure and science. What we chiefly
need is serious and moral republican virtue. The incitements toward
acquisition and the spirit of war, on the other hand, destroy the spirit
of our democracy, and breed un-American, autocratic ambitions. War
strengthens the blind faith of the leaders in their own dictatorial
superiority, and so annihilates the feeling of independence and
responsibility in the individual; and this is just the way for the
nation to lose its moral and political integrity. The true patriotism
which our youth ought to learn is not found in noisy jingoism, but in
the silent fidelity to the Declaration of Independence of our fathers.

Thus the opinions are waged against one another, and so they will
continue to be. We must emphasize merely again and again that that
majority which to-day is on the side of the imperialists believes at the
same time enthusiastically in the international movement for peace, and
quite disinterestedly favours, as far as possible, the idea of the peace
tribunal. Most of all, the treatment of Cuba certifies to the honourable
and peaceful tendencies of the dominant party. That which was done under
Wood’s administration for the hygiene of a country which had always been
stricken with yellow fever, for the school and judicial systems of that
unfortunate people, is remarkable; and the readiness with which the new
republic was afterward recognized, and with which, finally, by special
treaties extensive tariff reductions were made to a people really
dependent on trade with America, makes one of the most honourable pages
in American history. And all this happened through the initiative of
these same men whose Philippine policy has been styled in the Senate
Napoleonic. Thus the fact remains that there is an almost inexplicable
mixture in the American nature of justice and covetiveness, conscience
and indifference, love of peace and love of war.

The latest phase in expansion has been toward the south. America has
assumed control of Panama. Constitutionally, the case is somewhat
different here. Panama belonged to the Republic of Colombia, and when
the government of Colombia, which conducts itself for the most part like
the king and his advisers in a comic opera, tried to extort more money
than was thought just from Washington before it would sign the treaty
giving the United States a right to build a canal through Panama, and at
first pretended to decline the treaty altogether, a revolution broke out
in the part of the country which was chiefly affected. Panama declared
itself an independent state, and the United States recognized its claim
to independence, and concluded the canal treaty, not with Colombia, but
with the upstart government of Panama. This was really part and parcel
of the general imperialistic movement. We need not ask whether the
American government encouraged Panama to secede; it certainly did
nothing of the sort officially, although it is perfectly certain that
the handful of people in Panama would not have had the slightest chance
of escaping unpunished by Colombia if it had not been for American
protection; indeed, it seemed to feel sure beforehand that the United
States would keep Colombia at bay. And in fact, the baby republic was
recognized with all the speed of telegraph and cable, and the treaty was
signed before Panama had become quite aware of its own independence;
while at the same time Colombia’s endeavour to bring the rebellious
district into line was suppressed with all the authority of her mighty

It is not to be denied that this transaction called into play new
principles of international politics; nor can it be excused on the
ground that new governments have been quickly recognized before. Never
before had the United States declared a rebellion successful so long as
the old government still stood, and the new one was able to hold out
only by virtue of the interference of the United States itself. It is to
be admitted that this was an imperialistic innovation, as was the
subjugation of the Filipinos. But we should not be so narrow as to
condemn a principle because it is new. All past history makes the
expansion of American influence necessary; the same forces which make a
state great continue to work through its later history. America must
keep on in its extension, and if the methods by which the present
nations grow are necessarily different from those by which the little
Union was able to stretch out into uninhabited regions a hundred years
ago, then, of course, the expansion of the twentieth century must take
on other forms than it had in the nineteenth. But expansion itself
cannot stop, nor can it be altered by mere citations from the
Declaration of Independence, or pointings to the petty traditions of
provincial days. The fight which the anti-imperialists are waging is
thoroughly justified in so far as it is a fight against certain
outgrowths of such expansion which have appeared in the Philippines, and
most of all when it is against the loss to the Republic, through
expansion, of its moral principles and of its finer and deeper feelings
through the intoxication of power. But the fight is hopeless if it is
waged against expansion itself. The course of the United States is
marked out.

                  *       *       *       *       *

It requires no special gift of prophecy to point out that the next
expansion will be toward the north. Just as the relations in Panama were
fairly obvious a half year before the catastrophe came, the suspicion
cannot be now put by that at a time not far hence the Stars and Stripes
will wave in the northwestern part of Canada, and that there too the
United States will be unwilling to lower its flag.

A newspaper is published in Boston which announces every day, at the top
of the page, in bold type, that it is the first duty of the United
States to annex Canada. On the other hand, one hears the opinion that
nothing could be worse for the United States than to receive this
immense, thinly populated territory even as a gift. There are the same
differences of opinion on the other side of the boundary; some say that
the Canadians are glad to be free from the problems which face the
United States, from its municipal politics, its boss rule in political
parties, and from the negro and Philippine questions, and that Canadian
fidelity to the English Crown is not to be doubted for a moment. While
others admit quite openly that to be annexed to the United States is the
only natural thing that can happen to Canada. The immediate future will
probably see some sort of compromise. It is wholly unlikely that the
eastern part of Canada, in view of all its traditions, will prove untrue
to its mother country; whereas the western part of Canada is under
somewhat different economic conditions; it has so different a history,
and is to-day so much more closely related to the United States than to
England that the political separation will hardly continue very long.
The thousands who have gone from the United States across the Canadian
frontier in order to settle the unpeopled Northwest will, in the not
distant future, give rise to some occasion in which economic and
political logic will decree a transfer of the allegiance of Western
Canada, with the exception of a narrow strip of land along the Pacific
Coast. The area of the United States would then include a new region of
about 250 million acres of wheat lands, of which to-day hardly two
millions are in cultivation.

The Canadian problem, of course, arose neither to-day nor yesterday. The
first permanent colony in Canada was a French colony, begun in the year
1604. Frenchmen founded Quebec in the year 1608, and French settlements
developed along the St. Lawrence River. In the year 1759 General Wolfe
conquered Quebec for the English, and in the following year the whole of
Canada fell into their power. English and Scotch immigrants settled more
and more numerously in Upper Canada. The country was divided in 1791 in
two provinces, which were later called Ontario and Quebec; and in 1867,
by an act of the British Parliament, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and
Nova Scotia were made into one country. A short time thereafter the
government of the new country bought the possessions of the Hudson Bay
Company, and soon afterward the large western region called Manitoba was
organized as a distinct province. In 1871 British Columbia was taken in,
and in the eighties this extensive western land was divided into four
provinces. During this time there were all sorts of interruptions, wars
with the Indians, and disputes over boundaries; but there has never been
open warfare between Canada and the United States. The many
controversies that have arisen have been settled by treaty, and a court
of arbitration met even recently in London to settle a dispute about
boundaries which for many years had occasioned much feeling. It was a
question whether the boundary of the Northwest should lie so as to leave
to Canada a way to the coast without crossing United States territory.
The boundaries were defined by the treaties as lying a certain distance
from the coast; was this coast meant to be mainland, or was it coastline
marked out by the off-lying groups of islands? This was a question of
great economic importance for a part of Canada. The court decided in
favour of the United States, but the decision does not belong on one of
the most honourable pages of American history. It had been agreed that
both England and the United States should appoint distinguished jurists
to the court of arbitration; and this the English did, while the United
States sent prejudiced politicians. This has created some embitterment
in Canada, and the mood is not to-day entirely friendly, although this
will doubtless give way in view of the great economic development which
works toward union with the United States.

Such a union would be hindered very much more by the friendly relations
existing between the United States and England. At the time when the
family quarrel between mother and daughter countries had made an open
breach, it seemed almost certain that America would take the first good
opportunity of robbing England of her Canadian possessions. Even before
the early colonies decided on revolution, they tried to draw the
northern provinces into their train. And when the new Union was formed,
it seemed a most natural thing for all English speaking inhabitants of
the American Continent to participate therein. It was no friendliness
toward England that diverted the expansion of the young country toward
the south rather than toward the north. It was rather the influence of
the Southern States of the Federation which encouraged the expansion
toward the south, because in that way their adjacent territory was
increased, and therewith the number of the slave states represented in
Congress; and the institution of slavery was thereby better protected
from Northern interference. England was the hereditary foe of the
country for an entire century, and every school boy learned from his
history book to hate England and to desire revenge. But this has been
wholly changed in recent years by the sympathy which John Bull showed
during the Spanish war, and by his far-seeing magnanimity shown on a
hundred occasions. There are already preparations making for a special
court of arbitration to sit on all Anglo-American disputes, and the mood
of the American people is certainly inclined to avoid everything that
would unnecessarily offend England. American politicians would thus
hesitate very long before attempting so bold a step as the annexation of
Canada; and thus it is that the Canadian problem gets into the programme
of neither party. Another consideration which perhaps makes a difference
is that no party is quite sure which side would be the gainer; whether
among the millions of people in the Canadian West there would be found
to be more Republicans or Democrats. Therefore, Canada is not now an
issue between the parties. Nevertheless, the problem grows more and more
important in public opinion, and however much Congress may be concerned
to avoid a war with England, and determined never deliberately to bring
about any disloyalty in Canada, we may be certain that once the American
farmers and gold miners in Northwestern Canada have set the pro-American
ball rolling, then the general mood will speedily change and the
friendly resolutions toward England which will be proposed by Senators
will sound very feeble.

The most natural desire, which seems to be wide-spread, is for
reciprocity with Canada. Both countries are aware that they are each
other’s best purchasers, and yet they put difficulties in the way of
importing each other’s products. American industry has already invested
more than $100,000,000 for branch factories in Canada, in order to avoid
duties; and the industry of New England would doubtless be much
benefited if Canadian coal might be delivered duty-free along the
Atlantic coast; nevertheless, the chief disadvantages in the present
arrangements fall to Canada. A treaty was concluded in 1854 which
guaranteed free entrance to the markets of the United States for all
Canadian natural products, and during the twelve years in which the
treaty was in force, Canadian exports increased fourfold. Then the
American protective tariff was restored; and while, for example, the
agricultural products which Canada sold to the United States in 1866
amounted to more than $25,000,000, they had decreased by the beginning
of the twentieth century to $7,367,000; and all Canadian exports to the
United States, with the exception of coin and precious metals, in spite
of the tremendous growth of both countries, had increased at the same
time only 5 per cent. Canada, on the other hand, contented herself with
modest duties, so that the commerce of the United States with Canada has
increased from $28,000,000 in the year 1866 to $117,000,000 in the year
1900. The necessary result of this policy of exclusion on the part of
the United States has necessarily been closer economic relations between
Canada and England. The Canadian exports to Great Britain have increased
steadily, and the bold plans of those who are to-day agitating a tariff
union for all Great Britain would, of course, specially benefit Canadian

But the United States knows this, and does not fail to think on the
future. The agitation for new commercial treaties with Canada does not
spring from the supporters of free-trade, but from some most
conservative protectionists, and may be ascribed even to McKinley and
Dingley; and this agitation is steadily growing. On the other hand,
Canada is by no means unanimously enthusiastic for the universal British
reciprocity alliance. The industrial sections of Eastern Canada see
things with different eyes from the agrarians of Western Canada, and
opinions are just as diverse as they are in England. The economic needs
of the East and West are so fundamentally different, and since the West
so greatly needs reciprocity, it is coming more and more to look for a
solution of this problem by seeking, through a union of the West with
the United States, all that which England cannot offer. The government
of Canada, which comprises remarkably effective and intelligent men, is
aiming to nip the incipient disaffection of the West in the bud, by
means of its railroad policy. Railroad lines connect to-day the western
portion of Canada much more closely with the eastern portion than with
the northern parts of the United States.

The economic possibilities of Western Canada are enormous, and would
suffice for a population of a hundred million. The supply of lumber
exceeds that of the United States. Its gold regions are more extensive,
its coal and iron supplies are inexhaustible, its nickel mines the
richest in the world; it has twice the supply of fish of the United
States, and its arable lands could feed the population of the United
States and Europe together. Everything depends on making the most of
these possibilities, and the Canadian of the West looks with natural
envy on the huge progress which the entirely similar regions of the
United States are making, and is moved to reflect how different things
would be with him if only the boundary lines could be altered.

More than anything else, however, the Westerner feels that a spirit of
enterprise, industrial energy, and independent force is needed to
exploit these enormous natural resources, such as the inhabitants of a
dependent colony can never have. Even when a colony like Canada
possesses a certain independence in the administration of its own
affairs, it is still only the appearance and not the fact of
self-government. One sees clearly how colourless and dull the
intellectual life of Canada is, and how in comparison with the very
different life of England on the one hand, and of the United States on
the other, the colonial spirit saps and undermines the spirit of
initiative. The people do not suffer under such a rule; they do not feel
the political lack of fresh air, but they take on a subdued and listless
way of life, trying to adapt themselves to an alien political scheme,
and not having the courage to speak out boldly. This depression is
evinced in all their doings; and this is not the spirit which will
develop the resources of Western Canada. But this infinite, new country
attracts to its pioneer labours fresh energies which are found south of
the Canadian line and across the ocean. The Scotch, Germans, Swedes, and
especially Americans emigrate thither in great numbers. The farmers in
the western United States are to-day very glad to sell their small
holdings, in order to purchase broad tracts of new, fresh ground in
Canada, where there is still no lack of room. They will be the leaders
in this new development of the West. And while they bring with them
their love of work and enterprise, they are of course without sympathy
with Canadian traditions; nor do they feel any patriotism toward the
country: their firmest convictions point toward such political freedom
as the United States offers. Whether the tariff schemes of England will
be able to win back some advantages for Canada, only the future can say.
It is more likely that inasmuch as the Philippine agitation has extended
the influence of the United States into the tropics, the climatic
equilibrium will be restored by another extension into the Canadian

                  *       *       *       *       *

The relations of the United States to Cuba and to the Philippines, to
Panama and to Canada, have been regulated by the immediate needs of the
country without bringing into special prominence any general principles.
Economic interest and general ethics have so far sufficed, and only here
and there has mention been made of the fundamental doctrines contained
in the Declaration of Independence. The case of South America is quite
different; the policy of the United States toward South America is
dictated to-day neither by economic interests nor moral principles; in
fact, it is a mockery of morals and a great prejudice to American
industry. The sole source of this policy is an abstract political
doctrine, which a long time ago was both economically and morally
necessary, but is to-day entirely without value; this is the Monroe
Doctrine. The observance of this famous doctrine is one of the most
interesting instances of the survival of an outlived political
principle, and the blind way in which this prejudice is still favoured
by the masses, so that even the leading politicians would not dare, at
the present time, to defend the real interests of the country by
opposing this doctrine, shows clearly how democracy favours rule of
thumb, and how the American people is in its thought conservative to the
last degree. The Monroe Doctrine has done the United States good
service, and redounded to both its profit and its honour. And so no one
ventures to disturb it, although it has long ceased to bring anything
except disadvantage. Some of the best people know this; but where the
people rule it is as true as where a monarch rules, that the misfortune
of rulers is not to wish to hear the truth.

The blind folly of the Americans in holding tenaciously to the
antiquated Monroe Doctrine is surpassed only by the madness of those
Europeans who wish to take up arms against that doctrine. All the
declarations of the Old World to the effect that the Monroe Doctrine is
an unheard of piece of arrogance, and that the Americans have no right
to assert themselves in such a way, and that it is high time forcibly to
call their right in question, are historically short-sighted as well as
dangerous. They are unhistorical, because there really was a time when
this doctrine was necessary to the existence of the United States, and
when, therefore, the country had a right to assert such doctrine; and
now that it has been silently respected for a hundred years, any protest
against it comes too late. Opposition to the doctrine from the side of
Europe would be foolish, because no European country has any really
vital reason for calling it in question, and there would be a very
lively war indeed if Europe were to try to overstep the Monroe Doctrine
as long as the great mass of the American people still hold it sacred.
The Monroe Doctrine must and will succumb, but it will only be through
the convictions of the Americans, never because some European nation
threatens to batter down the wall. The logic of events is, after all,
stronger than the mere inertia of inherited doctrines. The hour seems
near when the error and folly of the Monroe Doctrine are about to be
felt in wider circles than ever before. The opposite side is already
ably supported in addresses and essays. Soon the opposition will reach
the newspapers, which are to-day, of course, still unanimous on the
popular side; and whenever a wholesome movement commences among the
American people it generally spreads with irresistible speed. We have
seen how rapidly the imperialistic idea took hold on the masses, and the
repudiation of the theory of Monroe will follow quite as rapidly; since
the nation cannot, for the sake of a mere whim, permanently forget its
best interests. It is only a question of overcoming the inertia of long

The spirit of the Monroe Doctrine was abroad long before the time of
Monroe. It was agreed, from the earliest days of the federal government,
that the new nation should keep itself clear of all political
entanglement with Europe, that it would not mix in with the destinies of
European peoples, and that it would expect of those peoples that they
should not spread the boundaries of their possessions over to the
American continents. When President Washington, in 1796, took his
farewell of the nation, he recommended an extension of commercial
relations with Europe, but entire aloofness from their political
affairs. “The nations of Europe,” he said, “have important problems
which do not concern us as a free people. The causes of their frequent
misunderstandings lie far outside of our province, and the circumstance
that America is geographically remote will facilitate our political
isolation, and the nations who go to war will hardly challenge our young
nation, since it is clear that they will have nothing to gain by it.”

This feeling, that America was to have nothing to do with European
politics, and that the European nations should on no condition be
allowed to extend their sphere of action on to the American continents,
grew steadily. This national conviction rested primarily on two motives:
firstly, America wanted to be sure of its national identity. It felt
instinctively that, if it were to become involved in European conflicts,
the European powers might interfere in the destinies of the smaller and
growing nation, and that the danger of such interference would increase
tremendously if the great nations of Europe were to gain a foothold in
the neighbourhood of the young republic on this side of the ocean. In
the second place, this nation felt that it had a moral mission to
perform. The countries of Europe were groaning under oppression, whereas
this nation had thrown off the English yoke, and proposed to keep the
new continent free from such misrule. In order to make it the theatre
for an experiment of modern democracy, no absolute monarchs were to set
foot in this new world; the self-government of the people was to remain
unquestioned, and every republic was to be free to work out its own

Thus the desire for self-protection and a moral interest in the fight
against absolutism have prescribed a course of holding aloof from
European affairs, and of demanding that Europe should not reach out
toward the American continents. This has become a cardinal principle in
American politics. The opportunity soon came to express this principle
very visibly in international politics. The Holy Alliance between
Austria, Russia, and Prussia was believed by America, ever since 1822,
to have been arranged in order to regain for Spain the Spanish colonies
in South America. England wished to ally itself with the United States;
but they, with excellent tact, steered their course alone. In 1822 the
United States recognized the independence of the Central American
republics; and in 1823, President Monroe, in his message to Congress,
which was probably penned by John Quincy Adams, who was then Secretary
of State, set down this policy in black and white. Monroe had previously
asked ex-President Jefferson for his opinion, and Jefferson had written
that our first and fundamental maxim should be, never to involve
ourselves in European disputes; and our second, never to permit Europe
to meddle in cis-Atlantic affairs, North and South America having their
own interests, which are fundamentally different from those of Europe.
Now the message of President Monroe contained the following
declarations: “That we should consider any attempt on their part [of the
allied powers] to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere
as dangerous to our peace and safety,” and “that we could not view any
interposition for the purpose of oppressing [governments on this side of
the water whose independence we had acknowledged], or controlling in any
manner their destiny by any European power, in any other light than as a
manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.”

Thus the famous Monroe Doctrine was announced to the world, and became
an international factor sufficiently potent even to prevent Napoleon
from realizing his plans regarding Mexico, and in more recent times to
protect Venezuela from the consequences of her misdeeds. And although,
at just that time of the Venezuelan dispute, the old Monroe Doctrine was
in so far modified that the Presidential message conceded to European
powers their right to press their claims by force of arms, so long as
they claimed no permanent right of occupation, nevertheless the
discussions ended with the extreme demand that foreign powers should be
content with the promise of a South American state to pay its debts, and
should receive no security; nor did the United States give security for
the payment, either. After eighty years the doctrine is still asserted
as it has been from the first, although the situation is in all respects
very different. A few brief instances of these changes must suffice us.

In the first place, the two fundamental motives which gave rise to the
doctrine, and in which all important documents are so clearly enunciated
from the time of Washington to that of Monroe, have long since ceased to
exist. The contrast between Europe as the land of tyranny and America as
a democratic free soil, no longer holds; nor can the notion be bolstered
up any longer, even for political ends. In the first place all countries
of Western Europe now enjoy popular representation, while the Latin
republics of South America, with the exception of Chili and the
Argentine Republic, are the most absurd travesties of freedom and
democracy. Conditions in Venezuela and Colombia are now pretty well
known. It has been shown, for instance, that about one-tenth of the
population consists of highly cultivated Spaniards, who take no part in
politics, and suffer under a shameless administrative misrule; that some
eight-tenths more are a harmless and ignorant proletariat of partly
Spanish and partly Indian descent—people who likewise have no political
interest, and who are afraid of the men in power—while the remaining
tenth, which is of mixed Spanish, Indian, and negro blood, holds in its
hands the so-called republican government, and keeps itself in power
with every device of extortion and deception, and from time to time
splits up into parties which throw the whole country into an uproar,
merely for the personal advantages of the party leaders.

Even in America there is no longer a political back-woodsman who
supposes that a republic like what the founders of the United States had
in mind, can ever be made out of such material; and when, in spite of
this, as in the negro question, some one gets up at the decisive moment
of every discussion and tries to conjure with the Declaration of
Independence, even such an appeal now often misses its effect. Since the
Americans have gone into the Philippines they can no longer hold it an
axiom that every government must be justified by the assent of the
governed. People have learned to understand that the right of
self-government must be earned, and is deserved only as the reward of
hard work; that nations which have not yet grown to be orderly and
peaceable need education like children who are not yet of age and do not
know what is good for them. To say that the pitiable citizen of a
corrupt South American republic is freer than the citizen of England,
France, or Germany would be ridiculous; to protect the anarchy of these
countries against the introduction of some European political system is
at the present time not a moral obligation, surely, which the American
Republic need feel itself called on to perform. The democratic idea, as
realized in American life, has become much more influential on the
governments of Europe than on those of South America, notwithstanding
their lofty constitutions, which are filled with the most high-flown
moral and philosophical utterances, but are obeyed by no one.

Now the other motive which supported the Monroe Doctrine, namely, the
security of the United States and of their peaceful isolation, has
to-day not the slightest validity; on the contrary, it is the
superstitious faith in this doctrine which might conceivably endanger
the peace of the country. Of course, this is only in so far as the
doctrine applies to South America, not to Central America. It would
indeed be impossible for the United States to allow, say Cuba, in
passing from Spanish hands, to come into possession of another European
nation; in fact, no part of Central America could become the seat of new
European colonies without soon becoming a seat of war. The construction
of the canal across the isthmus confirms and insures the moral and
political leadership of the United States in Central America and the
Antilles. But the situation is quite different in South America. The
Americans are too apt to forget that Europe is much nearer to the United
States than, for instance, the Argentine Republic, and that if one wants
to go from New York to the Argentine Republic, the quickest way to go is
by way of Europe. And the United States have really very little
industrial intercourse or sympathy with the Latin republics. A European
power adjoins the United States from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean;
and the fact that England, at one time their greatest enemy, abuts along
this whole border has never threatened the peace of the United States;
but it is supposed to be an instant calamity if Italy or England or
Holland gets hold of a piece of land far away in South America, in
payment of debts or to ensure the safety of misused colonists.

So long as the United States were small and weak, this exaggerated fear
of unknown developments was intelligible; but now that the country is
large and strong, and the supposed contrast between the Old and New
Worlds no longer exists, since the United States are much more nearly
like the countries of Europe than like the South American republics, any
argument for the Monroe Doctrine on the ground of misgivings or fear
comes to be downright hysterical. In the present age of ocean cables,
geographical distances disappear. The American deals with the
Philippines as if they were before his door, although they are much
farther from Washington than any South American country is from Europe.
Occasions for dispute with European countries may, on the other hand,
come up at any time without the slightest reference to South America,
since the United States have now become an international power; it
requires merely an objectionable refusal to admit imports, some
diplomatic mishap, or some unfairness in a matter of tariff.

If, on the other hand, the European countries were to have colonies in
South America, as they have in Africa, no more occasions for complaint
or dissatisfaction would accrue to the United States than from the
similar colonies in Africa. No Russian or French or Italian colony in
South America would ever in the world give rise to a difficulty with the
United States through any real opposition of interests, and could only
do so because a doctrine forbidding such colonies, which had been
adopted under quite different circumstances, was still bolstered up and
defended. If the Monroe Doctrine were to-day to be applied no farther
than Central America, and South America were to be exempted, the
possibilities of a conflict with European powers would be considerably
decreased. That which was meant originally to guarantee peace, has,
under the now wholly altered conditions, become the greatest menace of

But the main point is not that the motives which first led to the Monroe
Doctrine are to-day invalid; the highest interests of the United States
demand that this moribund doctrine be definitely given up. In the first
place, it was never doubted that the exclusion of the Old World
countries from the new American continents was only the conclusion of a
premise, to the effect that the Americans themselves proposed to confine
their political interests to their own continent. That was a wise policy
in the times of Washington and Monroe; and whether or not it would have
been wise in the time of McKinley, it was in any case at that time
thrown over. The Americans have united with the European forces to do
battle in China; they have extended their own dominion toward Asia; they
have sent men-of-war to Europe on political missions; in short, the
Americans have for years been extending their political influence around
the world, and Secretary Hay has for a long time played an influential
part in the European concert of powers. The United States have too often
defended their Monroe claim on the ground of their own aloofness from
these powers to feel justified in urging the claim when they no longer
do keep aloof.

There is another and more important consideration. The real interest of
the United States with regard to South America is solely that that land
shall develop as far as possible, that its enormous treasures shall be
exploited, and that out of a prosperous commercial continent important
trade advantages shall accrue to the United States. This is possible
only by the establishment of order there—the instant termination of
anarchy. As long as the Monroe Doctrine is so unnecessarily held to, the
miserable and impolitic stagnation of that ravaged country can never be
bettered, since all the consequences of that doctrine work just in the
opposite direction. It is sufficiently clear that progress will not be
made until fresh, healthy, enterprising forces come in from outside; but
now so soon as an Englishman or German or other European undertakes to
earn his livelihood there, he is at once exposed to the shameless
extortion and other chicanery of the so-called governments. And when
European capital wishes to help the development of these countries, it
is given absolutely no protection against their wretched politics. And
all this is merely because the chartered rascals in power know that they
can kill and steal with impunity, so long as the sacred Monroe Doctrine
is there, like an enchanted wall, between them and the mother countries
of their victims; they know only too well that no evil can come to them,
since the statesmen at Washington are bound down to a prejudice, and
required scrupulously to protect every hair on their precious heads. All
this prevents any infusion of good blood from coming into these
countries, and so abandons the land entirely to the indolence of its
inhabitants. The conditions would be economically sounder, in almost
every part of South America, if more immigrants came in, and more
especially if those that came could take a larger part in the

It would be somewhat different if the United States were to admit, as a
consequence of the Monroe Doctrine, its own responsibility for the
public administration of these countries, for their debts and for
whatever crimes they commit; in other words, if the United States were
virtually to annex South America. There is no thought of this; the
United States have recently, in the Venezuela matter, clearly declined
all responsibility. If, while declining the responsibility, the United
States persist in affirming the Monroe Doctrine, they are to be charged
inevitably with helping on anarchy, artificially holding back the
progress of one of the richest and least developed portions of the
earth, and thereby hurting their own commercial outlook more than any
European protective tariff could possibly do. The greater part Europe
takes in South America, so much the more will trade and commerce
prosper; and in this pioneer labour, as history has shown, the patient
German is the best advance-agent. Almost all the commercial relations
between the United States and the South American republics are meditated
by European, and especially German, business houses. The trade of the
United States with South America is to-day astonishingly small, but when
finally the Monroe barrier falls away it will develop enormously.

In all this America has not, from its previous policy, derived even the
modest advantage of endearing itself to the inhabitants of these South
American republics. Quite on the contrary, the Monroe Doctrine sounds
like the ring of a sword in the South American ear. The American of the
south is too vividly reminded that, although the province of the United
States is after all only a finite portion of the New World, the nation
has, nevertheless, set itself up as the master of both continents; and
the natural consequence is, that all the small and weak countries join
forces against the one great country and brood continually over their
mistrust. The attempts of the United States to win the sympathies of the
rest of America have brought no very great results—since, in the States,
sympathy has been tempered with contempt, and in South America with
fear. In short, the unprejudiced American must come back every time to
the _ceterum censeo_ that the Monroe Doctrine must finally be given up.

One point, however, must always be emphasized—that all the motives
speaking against the doctrine will be efficient only so far as they
appeal to the soul of the American people, and overthrow there the
economically suicidal Monroe Doctrine. On the other hand, Europe would
gain nothing by trying to tear in pieces the sacred parchment; no
possible European interest in South America would compare in importance
with the loss of friendship of the United States. And so long as the
overwhelming majority of Americans holds to its delusions, the hostility
would be a very bitter one. Indeed, there would be no surer way of
stopping the gradual abandonment of the doctrine than for Europe to
attempt to dispute its validity.

The process of dissolution must take place in America; but the natural
interest and needs of the country so demand this development that it may
be confidently expected. A new time has come: the provinciality of the
Monroe Doctrine no longer does for America as a world power, and events
follow their logical development; the time will not be long before the
land of the Stars and Stripes will have extended across Western Canada
to Alaska, and have annexed the whole of Central America; while the
Latin republics of South America, on the other hand, will have been
sprinkled in with English, Italian, French, and German colonies; and
most of all, those republics themselves, by the lapse of the Monroe
Doctrine, will have been won over to law and order, progress and
economic health. The United States are too sound and too idealistic to
continue to oppose the demands of progress for the sake of a mere

Thus the dominion of this world power will grow. The influence of the
Army, and even more of the Navy, will help in this growth; even if the
dreams of Captain Hobson are not realized. To be sure, the dangers will
also grow apace; with a great navy comes the desire to use it.
Nevertheless, one must not overlook the fact that international politics
are much less a subject of public thought and discussion in America than
in Europe. For the American thinks firstly of internal politics, and
secondly of internal politics, and lastly of internal politics; and only
at some distant day does he plan to meditate on foreign affairs. Unless
the focus of public attention is distinctly transferred, the idea of
expansion will meet with sufficient resistance to check its undue

There is specially a thorough-going distrust of militarism, and an
instinctive fear that it works against democracy and favours despotism;
and there is, indeed, no doubt that the increasingly important relations
between this country and foreign powers put more authority into the
hands of the Presidential and Senatorial oligarchy than the general
public likes to see. Every slightest concealment on the part of the
President or his Cabinet goes against the feelings of the nation, and
this state of feeling will hardly alter; it comes from the depths of the
American character. On the other hand, it is combined with a positive
belief in the moral mission of the United States, which are destined to
gain their world-wide influence, not by might, but by the force of
exemplary attainment, of complete freedom, admirable organization, and
hard work. Any one who observes the profound sources of this belief will
be convinced that any different feelings in the public soul, any greed
of power, and any imperialistic instincts, are only a passing
intoxication. In its profoundest being, America is a power for peace and
for ethical ideals.


                             CHAPTER ELEVEN
                    _The Spirit of Self-Initiative_

“The spirit aids! from anxious scruples freed, I write, ‘In the
beginning was the deed!’” Others might write: In the beginning was the
inexhaustible wealth of the soil; and still others, if their memory is
short, might be tempted to say: In the beginning were the trusts! One
who wishes to understand the almost fabulous economic development of the
United States must, indeed, not simply consider its ore deposits and
gold mines, its coal and oil fields, its wheat lands and cotton
districts, its great forests and the supplies of water. The South
Americans live no less in a country prospered by nature, and so also do
the Chinese. South Africa offers entirely similar conditions to those of
the North American continent, and yet its development has been a very
different one; and, finally, a consideration of the peculiar forms of
American industrial organization, as, for instance, the trusts, reveals
merely symptoms and not the real causes which have been at work.

The colossal industrial successes, along with the great evils and
dangers which have come with them, must be understood from the make-up
of the American character. Just as we have traced the political life of
America back to a powerful instinct for self-determination, the free
self-guidance of the individual, so we shall here find that it is the
instinct for free self-initiative which has set in motion this
tremendous economic fly-wheel. The pressure to be up and doing has
opened the earth, tilled the fields, created industries, and developed
such technical skill as to-day may even dream of dominating the world.

But to grant that the essentials of such movements are not to be found
in casual external circumstances, but must lie in the mental make-up of
the nation, might lead in this case to ascribing the chief influence to
quite a different mental trait. The average European, permeated as he is
with Old World culture, is, in fact, convinced that this intense
economic activity is the simple result of unbounded greed. The search
for gold and the pursuit of the dollar, we often hear, have destroyed in
the American soul every finer ambition; and since the American has no
higher desire for culture, he is free to chase his mammon with
undisguised and shameless greed. The barbarity of his soul, it is said,
gives him a considerable economic advantage over others who have some
heart as well as a pocket-book, and whose feelings incline to the

Whether such a contemptuous allegation is a useful weapon in the
economic struggle, is not here in question. One who desires to
understand the historical development of events in the New World is
bound to see in all such talk nothing but distortion, and to realize
that Europe could face its own economic future with less apprehension if
it would estimate the powers of its great competitor more temperately
and justly, and would ask itself honestly if it could not learn a thing
or two here and there.

Merely to ape American doings would, in the end, avail nothing; that
which proceeds from intellectual and temperamental traits can be
effectively adopted by others only if they can acquire the same traits.
It is useless to organize similar factories or trusts without imitating
in every respect the men who first so organized themselves. Whether this
last is necessary, he alone can say who has understood his neighbours at
their best, and I has not been contented to make a merely thoughtless
and uncharitable judgment. A magnificent economic life such as that of
America can never spring from impure ethical motives, and the person is
very naïve who supposes that a great business was ever built up by mere
impudence, deception, and advertising. Every merchant knows that even
advertisements benefit only a solid business, and that they run a bad
one into the ground. And it is still more naïve to suppose that the
economic strength of America has been built up through underhanded
competition without respect to law or justice, and impelled by nothing
but a barbarous and purely material ambition. One might better believe
that the twenty-story office buildings on lower Broadway are supported
merely by the flagstones in the street; in point of fact, no mere
passer-by who does not actually see the foundations of such colossal
structures can have an idea of how deep down under the soil these
foundations go in order to find bed-rock. Just so the colossal fabric of
American industry is able to tower so high only because it has its
foundation on the hard rock of honest conviction.

In the first place, we might look into the American’s greed for gold. A
German observes immediately that the American does not prize his
possessions much unless he has worked for them himself; of this there
are innumerable proofs, in spite of the opposite appearances on the
surface. One of the most interesting of these is the absence of the
bridal dower. In Germany or France, the man looks on a wealthy marriage
as one of the most reliable means of getting an income; there are whole
professions which depend on a man’s eking out his entirely inadequate
salary from property which he inherits or gets by marriage; and the
eager search for a handsome dowry—in fact, the general commercial
character of marriage in reputable European society everywhere—always
surprises Americans. They know nothing of such a thing at home. Even
when the parents of the bride are prosperous, it is unusual for a young
couple to live beyond the means of the husband. Everywhere one sees the
daughters of wealthy families stepping into the modest homes of their
husbands, and these husbands would feel it to be a disgrace to depend on
their prosperous fathers-in-law. An actual dowry received from the
bride’s parents during their lifetime is virtually unknown. Another
instance of American contempt for unearned wealth, which especially
contrasts with European customs, is the disapproval which the American
always has for lotteries. If he were really bent on getting money, he
would find the dower and the lottery a ready means; whereas, in fact,
the lottery is not only in all its forms forbidden by law, but public
opinion wholly disapproves of games of chance. The President of Harvard
University, in a public address given a short time since, in which he
spoke before a large audience of the change in moral attitude, was able
to give a striking illustration of the transformation in the fact that
two generations ago the city of Boston conducted a lottery, in order to
raise money for rebuilding a university structure which had been
destroyed by fire. He showed vividly how such a transaction would be
entirely unthinkable to-day, and how all American feelings would revolt
at raising money for so good a cause as an educational institution by so
immoral a means as a public lottery. The entire audience received this
as a matter of course, apparently without a suspicion as to how many
cathedrals are being built in Europe to-day from tickets at half a
dollar. It was amusing to observe how Carnegie’s friend, Schwab, who had
been the greatly admired manager of the steel works, fell in public
esteem when news came from the Riviera that he was to be seen at the
gaming-tables of Monaco. The true American despises any one who gets
money without working for it. Money is not the thing which is
considered, but the manner of getting it. This is what the American
cares for, and he prizes the gold he gets primarily as an indication of
his ability.

At first sight it looks as if this disinclination to gambling were not
to be taken seriously. It would signify nothing that the police discover
here and there a company of gamblers who have barricaded the door; but a
European might say that there is another sort of speculative fever which
is very prevalent. Even Americans on the stock exchange often say, with
a smile: We are a gambling nation; and from the point of view of the
broker it would be so. He sees how all classes of people invest in
speculative securities, and how the public interests itself in shares
which are subject to the greatest fluctuations; how the cab-driver and
the hotel waiter pore nervously over the quotations, and how new mining
stocks and industrial shares are greedily bought by school teachers and
commercial clerks. The broker sees in this the people’s desire for
gambling, because he is himself thoroughly aware of the great risks
which are taken, and knows that the investors can see only a few of the
factors which determine prices.

But in the public mind all this buying and selling looks very different.
The small man, investing a few dollars in such doubtful certificates,
never thinks of himself as a gambler; he thinks that he understands the
market; he is not trusting to luck, but follows the quotations day by
day for a long time, and asks his friends for “tips,” until he is
convinced that his own discretion and cunning will give him an
advantage. If he were to think of his gain as matter of chance, as the
broker thinks it is, he would not only not invest his money, but would
be no longer attracted by the transactions. And whenever he loses, he
still goes on, believing that he will be able the next time to figure
out the turn of the market more accurately.

The same is true of the wagers which the Anglo-Saxon is always making,
because he loves excitement. For him a wager is not a true wager when it
is merely a question of chance. Both sides make calculations, and have
their special considerations which they believe will determine the
outcome, and the winner feels his gain to be earned by his shrewdness.
An ordinary game of chance does not attract the American—a fact which
may be seen even in the grotesque game of poker. In a certain sense, the
American’s aversion to tipping servants reveals, perhaps, the same
trait. The social inferiority which he feels to be implied in the
acceptance of a fee, goes against the self-respect of the individual;
but there is the additional disinclination here to receiving money which
is not strictly earned.

There are positive traits corresponding to these negative ones; and
especially among them may be noticed the use to which money is put after
it is gotten. If the American were really miserly, he would not
distribute his property with such a free hand. Getting money excites
him, but keeping it is less interesting, and one sees not seldom the
richest men taking elaborate precautions that only a small part of their
money shall fall to their children, because they think that the
possession of money which is not self-earned is not a blessing. From
these motives one may understand at once the magnificent generosity
shown toward public enterprises.

Public munificence cannot well be gauged by statistics, and especially
not in America. Most of the gifts are made quietly, and of course the
small gifts which are never heard about outweigh the larger ones; and,
nevertheless, one can have a fair idea of American generosity by
considering only the large gifts made for public ends. If we consider
only the gifts of money which are greater than one thousand dollars, and
which go to public institutions, we have in the year 1903 the pretty sum
of $76,935,000. There can be no doubt that all the gifts under one
thousand dollars would make an equal sum.

Of these public benefactions, $40,700,000 went to educational
institutions. In that year, for instance, Harvard University received in
all $5,000,000, Columbia University $3,000,000, and Chicago University
over $10,000,000; Yale received $600,000, and the negro institute in
Tuskegee the same amount; Johns Hopkins and the University of
Pennsylvania received about half of a million each. Hospitals and
similar institutions were remembered with $21,726,000; $7,583,000 were
given to public libraries, $3,996,000 for religious purposes, and
$2,927,000 to museums and art collections. Any one who lives in America
knows that this readiness to give is general, from the Carnegies and
Rockefellers down to the working-men, and that it is easy to obtain
money from private purses for any good undertaking.

One sees clearly, again, that the real attraction which the American
feels for money-making does not lie in the having but only in the
getting, from the perfect equanimity, positively amazing to the
European, with which he bears his losses. To be sure, his irrepressible
optimism stands him in good stead; he never loses hope, but is confident
that what he has lost will soon be made up. But this would be no comfort
to him if he did not care much less for the possession than for the
getting of it. The American chases after money with all his might,
exactly as on the tennis-court he tries to hit the ball, and it is the
game he likes and not the prize. If he loses he does not feel as if he
had lost a part of himself, but only as if he had lost the last set in a
tournament. When, a short time ago, there was a terrific crash in the
New York stock market and hundreds of millions were lost, a leading
Parisian paper said: “If such a financial crisis had happened here in
France, we should have had panics, catastrophies, a slump in _rentes_,
suicides, street riots, a ministerial crisis, all in one day: while
America is perfectly quiet, and the victims of the battle are sitting
down to collect their wits. France and the United States are obviously
two entirely different worlds in their civilization and in their way of

As to the estimation of money and its acquirement, France and the United
States are indeed as far apart as possible, while Germany stands in
between. The Frenchman prizes money as such; if he can get it without
labour, by inheritance or dowry, or by gambling, so much the better. If
he loses it he loses a part of himself, and when he has earned enough to
be sure of a livelihood, he retires from money-making pursuits as soon
as possible. It is well known that the ambition of the average Frenchman
is to be a _rentier_. The American has exactly the opposite idea. Not
only does he endure loss with indifference and despise gain which is not
earned, but he would not for any price give up the occupation of making
money. Whether he has much or little, he keeps patiently at work; and,
as no scholar or artist would ever think of saying that he had done
enough work, and would from now on become a scientific or literary
_rentier_ and live on his reputation, so no American, as long as he
keeps his health, thinks of giving up his regular business.

The profession of living from the income of investments is virtually
unknown among men, and the young men who take up no money-making
profession because they “don’t need to,” are able to retain the social
respect of their fellows only by undertaking some sort of work for the
commonwealth. A man who does not work at anything, no matter how rich he
is, can neither get nor keep a social status.

This also indicates, then, that the American does not want his money
merely as a means for material comfort. Of course, wealthy Americans are
becoming more and more accustomed to provide every thinkable luxury for
their wives and daughters. Nowhere is so much expended for dresses,
jewelry, equipages and service, for country houses and yachts, works of
art and private libraries; and many men have to keep pretty steadily at
work year in and year out in order to meet their heavy expenditures. And
the same thing is repeated all down the social scale. According to
European standards, even the working-man lives luxuriously. But, in
spite of this, no person who has really come into the country will deny
that material pleasures are less sought after for themselves in the New
World than in the Old. It always strikes the European as remarkable how
very industrious American society is, and how relatively little bent on
pleasure. It has often been said that the American has not yet learned
how to enjoy life; that he knows very well how to make money, but not
how to enjoy it. And that is quite true; except that it leaves out of
account the main point—which is, that the American takes the keenest
delight in the employment of all his faculties in his work, and in the
exercise of his own initiative. This gives him more pleasure than the
spending of money could bring him.

It is, therefore, fundamentally false to stigmatize the American as a
materialist, and to deny his idealism. A people is supposed to be
thoroughly materialistic when its sphere of interests comprises problems
relating only to the world of matter, and fancies itself to be highly
idealistic when it is mainly concerned with intangible objects. But this
is a pure confusion of ideas. In philosophy, indeed, the distinction
between materialistic and idealistic systems of thought is to be
referred to the importance ascribed to material and to immaterial
objects. Materialism is, then, that pseudo-philosophical theory which
supposes that all reality derives from the existence of material
objects; and it is an idealistic system which regards the existence of
matter as dependent on the reality of thought. But it is mere play on
words to call nations realistic or idealistic on the strength of these
metaphysical conceptions, instead of using the words in their social and
ethical significations. For in the ethical world a materialistic
position would be one in which the aim of life was enjoyment, while that
point of view would be idealistic which found its motive not in the
pleasant consequences of the deed, but in the value of the deed itself.

If we hold fast to the meaning of materialism and idealism in this
ethical sense, we shall see clearly that it is entirely indifferent
whether the people who have these diametrically opposed views of life
are themselves busy with tangible or with intangible things. The man who
looks at life materialistically acts, not for the act itself, but for
the comfortable consequences which that act may have; and these
consequences may satisfy the selfish pleasure as well if they are
immaterial as if they are material objects. It is indifferent whether he
works for the satisfaction of the appetites, for the hoarding up of
treasures, or for the gratification to be found in politics, science,
and art. He is still a materialist so long as he has not devotion, so
long as he uses art only as a means to pleasure, science only as a
source of fame, politics as a source of power; and, in general, so long
as the labour that he does is only the means to an end. But the man who
is an idealist in life acts because he believes in the value of the
deed. It makes no difference to him whether he is working on material or
intellectual concerns; whether he speaks or rhymes, paints, governs, or
judges; or whether he builds bridges and railroad tracks, drains swamps
and irrigates deserts, delves into the earth, or harnesses the forces of
nature. In this sense the culture of the Old World threatens at a
thousand points to become crassly materialistic, and not least of all
just where it most loudly boasts of intellectual wealth and looks down
with contempt on everything which is material. And in this sense the
culture of the New World is growing to the very purest idealism, and by
no means least where it is busy with problems of the natural world of
matter, and where it is heaping up economic wealth.

This is the main point: The economic life means to the American a
realizing of efforts which are in themselves precious. It is not the
means to an end, but is its own end. If two blades of grass grow where
one grew before, or two railroad tracks where there was but one; if
production, exchange, and commerce increase and undertaking thrives,
then life is created, and this is, in itself, a precious thing. The
European of the Continent esteems the industrial life as honest, but not
as noble; economic activities seem to him good for supporting himself
and his family, but his duty is merely to supply economic needs which
are now existing.

The merchant in Europe does not feel himself to be a free creator like
the artist or scholar: he is no discoverer, no maker; and the mental
energy which he expends he feels to be spent in serving an inferior
purpose, which he serves only because he has to live. That creating
economic values can itself be the very highest sort of accomplishment,
and in itself alone desirable, whether or not it is useful for the
person who creates, and that it is great in itself to spread and
increase the life of the national economic organization, has been,
indeed, felt by many great merchants in the history of Europe, and many
a Hanseatic leader realizes it to-day. But the whole body of people in
Europe does not know this, while America is thoroughly filled with the
idea. Just as Hutten once cried: “Jahrhundert, es ist eine Lust, in dir
zu leben: die Wissenschaften und die Künste blühen,” so the American
might exclaim: It is a pleasure to live in our day and generation;
industry and commerce now do thrive. Every individual feels himself
exalted by being a part of such a mighty whole, and the general
intellectual effects of this temper show themselves in the entire
national life.

A nation can never do its best in any direction unless it believes
thoroughly in the intrinsic value of its work; whatever is done merely
through necessity is never of great national significance, and
second-rate men never achieve the highest things. If the first minds of
a nation look down with contempt on economic life, if there is no real
belief in the ideal value of industry, and if creative minds hold aloof
from it, that nation will necessarily be outdone by others in the
economic field. But where the ablest strength engages with idealistic
enthusiasm in the service of the national economic problems, the nation
rewards what the people do as done in the name of civilization, and the
love of fame and work together spur them on more than the material gain
which they will get. Indeed, this gain is itself only their measure of
success in the service of civilization.

The American merchant works for money in exactly the sense that a great
painter works for money; the high price which is paid for his picture is
a very welcome indication of the general appreciation of his art: but he
would never get this appreciation if he were working for the money
instead of his artistic ideals. Economically to open up this gigantic
country, to bring the fields and forests, rivers and mountains into the
service of economic progress, to incite the millions of inhabitants to
have new needs and to satisfy these by their own resourcefulness, to
increase the wealth of the nation, and finally economically to rule the
world and within the nation itself to raise the economic power of the
individual to undreamt-of importance, has been the work which has
fascinated the American. And every individual has felt his co-operation
to be ennobled by his firm belief in the value of such an aim for the
culture of the world.

To find one’s self in the service of this work of progress attracts even
the small boy. As a German boy commences early to write verses or draw
little sketches, in America the young farmer lad or city urchin tries to
come somehow into this national, industrial activity; and whether he
sells newspapers on the street or milks the cow on a neighbour’s farm,
he is proud of the few cents which he brings home—not because it is
money, but because he has earned it, and the coins are the only possible
proof that his activities have contributed to the economic life of his
country. It is this alone which spurs him on and fills him with
ambition; and if the young newspaper boy becomes a great railroad
president, or the farmer’s lad a wealthy factory owner, and both,
although worth their millions, still work on from morning till night
consumed by the thought of adding to the economic life of their nation,
and to this end undertake all sorts of new enterprises, the labour
itself has been, from beginning to end, its own reward. The content of
such a man’s life is the work of economic progress.

Men who have so felt have made the nation great, and no American would
admit that a man who gave his life to government or to law, to art or
science, would be able to make his life at all more significant or
valuable for the ends of culture. This is not materialism. Thus it
happens that the most favoured youths, the socially most competent
talents, go into economic life, and the sons of the best families, after
their course at the university, step enthusiastically into the business
house. One can see merely from ordinary conversation how thoroughly the
value of economic usefulness is impressed on the people. They speak in
America of industrial movements with as much general interest as one
would find manifested in Europe over politics, science, or art. Men who
do not themselves anticipate buying or selling securities in the stock
market, nevertheless discuss the rise and fall of various industrial and
railroad shares as they would discuss Congressional debates; and any new
industrial undertaking in a given city fills the citizens with pride, as
may be gathered from their chance conversations.

The central point of this whole activity is, therefore, not greed, nor
the thought of money, but the spirit of self-initiative. It is not
surprising that this has gone through such a lively development. Just as
the spirit of self-determination was the product of Colonial days, so
the spirit of self-initiative is the necessary outcome of pioneer life.
The men who came over to the New World expected to battle with the
natural elements; and even where nature had lavished her treasures,
these had still to be conquered; the forests must be felled and the
marshes drained. Indeed, the very spot to which the economic world comes
to-day to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase,
the city of St. Louis, which has to-day 8,000 factories, it must not be
forgotten was three generations ago a wilderness.

From the days when the first pioneers journeyed inland from the coast,
to the time, over two hundred years later, when the railroad tracks were
carried over the Rocky Mountains from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean,
the history of the nation has been of a long struggle with nature and of
hard-earned conquests; and for many years this fight was carried on by
men who toiled single-handed, as it were—by thousands of pioneers
working all at once, but far apart. The man who could not hold out under
protracted labour was lost; but the difficulty of the task spurred on
the energies of the strong and developed the spirit of self-initiative
to the utmost. It was fortunate that the men who came over to undertake
this work had been in a way selected for it: for only those who had
resolution had ventured to leave their native hearth-stones. Only the
most energetic risked the voyage across the ocean in those times, and
this desire to be up and doing found complete satisfaction in the New
World; for, as Emerson said: “America is another name for opportunity.”

The heritage of the pioneer days cannot vanish, even under the present
changed conditions. This desire to realize one’s self by being
economically busied is indeed augmented to-day by many other
considerations. Both the political and the social life of the democracy
demand equality, and therefore exclude all social classes, and titles,
and all honourary political distinctions. Now, such uniformity would, of
course, be unendurable in a society which had no real distinctions, and
therefore inevitably such distinguishing factors as are not excluded
come to be more and more important. A distinction between classes on the
basis of property can be met in monarchial countries by a distinction in
title and family, and so made at least very much less important than in
democratic nations. And thus it necessarily comes about that, where an
official differentiation is objected to on principle, wealth is sought
as a means to such discrimination. In the United States, however, wealth
has this great significance only because it is felt to measure the
individual’s successful initiative; and the simple equation between
prosperity and real work is more generally recognized by the popular
mind than the actual conditions justify. Thus it happens also that the
American sets his standard of life high. He wishes in this way to
express the fact that he has passed life’s examination well, that he has
been enterprising, and has won the respect of those around him. This
desire for a high standard of living which springs from the intense
economic enthusiasm works back thereon, and greatly stimulates it once

One of the first consequences of this spirit of initiative is, that
every sort of true labour is naturally respected, and never involves any
disesteem. In fact, one sees continually in this country men who go from
one kind of labour to another which, according to European ideals, would
be thought less honourable. The American is especially willing to take
up a secondary occupation besides his regular calling in order to
increase his income, and this leads, sometimes, to striking contrasts.
Of course there are some limits to this, and social etiquette is not
wholly without influence, although the American will seldom admit it. No
one is surprised if a preacher gives up the ministry in order to become
an editor or official in an industrial organization; but every one is
astonished if he becomes agent for an insurance company; amazed if he
goes to selling a patent medicine, and would be positively scandalized
if he were to buy a beer-saloon.

It is much the same with avocations. If the student in the university
tutors other students, it is quite right; if, during the university
vacation, he becomes bell-boy in a summer hotel, or during the school
year attends to furnaces in order to continue his studies, people are
sorry that he has to do this, but still account him perfectly
respectable; but if, on the other hand, he turns barber or artist’s
model, he is lost, because being a model is passive—it is not doing
anything; and cutting hair is a menial service, not compatible with the
dignity of the student. And thus it is that the social feeling in the
New World practically corrects the theoretical maxims as to the equal
dignity of every kind of labour, although, indeed, such maxims are very
much more generally recognized than in the Old World. And everywhere the
deciding principle of differentiation is the matter of self-initiative.

The broadly manifest social equality of the country, of which we shall
have to speak more minutely in another connection, would be actually
impossible if this belief in the equivalence of all kinds of work did
not rule the national mind. Whether the work brings much or little, or
requires much or little preparation, is thought to be unimportant in
determining a man’s status; but it is important that his life involves
initiative, or that he not merely passively exists.

A people which places industrial initiative so high must be industrious;
and, in fact, there is no profounder impression to be had than that the
whole population is busily at work, and that all pleasures and
everything which presupposes an idle moment are there merely to refresh
people and prepare them for more work. In order to be permanently
industrious, a man has to learn best how to utilize his powers; and just
in this respect the American nation has gone ahead of every other
people. Firstly, it is sober. A man who takes liquor in the early part
of the day cannot accomplish the greatest amount of work. When the
American is working he does not touch alcohol until the end of the day,
and this is as true of the millionaire and bank president as of the
labourer or conductor. On the other hand, the American workman knows
that only a well-nourished body can do the most work, and what the
workman saves by not buying beer and brandy he puts into roast beef. It
has often been observed, and especially remarked on by German observers,
that in spite of his extraordinary tension, the American never overdoes.
The working-man in the factory, for example, seldom perspires at his
work. This comes from a knowledge of how to work so as in the end to get
out of one’s self the greatest possible amount.

Very much the same may be said of the admirable way in which the
Americans make the most of their time. Superficial observers have often
supposed the American to be always in a hurry, whereas the opposite is
the case. The man who has to hurry has badly disposed of his time, and,
therefore, has not the necessary amount to finish any one piece of work.
The American is never in a hurry, but he so disposes his precious time
that nothing shall be lost. He will not wait nor be a moment idle; one
thing follows closely after another, and with admirable precision; each
task is finished in its turn; appointments are made and kept on the
minute; and the result is, that not only no unseemly haste is necessary,
but also there is time for everything. It is astonishing how well-known
men in political, economic, or intellectual life, who are loaded with a
thousand responsibilities and an apparently unreasonable amount of work,
have, by dint of the wonderful disposition of their own time and that of
their assistants, really enough for everything and even to spare.

Among the many things for which the American has time, by reason of his
economical management of it, are even some which seem unnecessary for a
busy man. He expends, for example, an extraordinary large fraction of
his time in attending to his costume and person, in sport, and in
reading newspapers, so that the notion which is current in Europe that
the American is not only always in a hurry, but has time for nothing
outside of his work, is entirely wrong.

This saving of strength by the proper disposal of time corresponds to a
general practicality in every sort of work. Business is carried on in a
business-like way. The banker, whose residence is filled with sumptuous
treasures of art, allows nothing unpractical to come into his office for
the sake of adornment. A certain strict application to duty is the
feeling one gets from every work-room; and while the foreigner feels a
certain barrenness about it, the American feels that anything different
shows a lack of earnestness and practical good sense. The extreme
punctuality with which the American handles his correspondence is
typical of him. Statistics show that no other country in the world sends
so many letters for every inhabitant, and every business letter is
replied to on the same day with matter-of-fact conciseness. It is like a
tremendous apparatus that accomplishes the greatest labour with the
least friction, by means of the precise adaptation of part to part.

A nation which is after self-initiative must inspire the spirit of
initiative in every single co-operator. Nothing is more characteristic
of this economic body than the intensity with which each workman—taking
the word in its broadest sense—thinks and acts for himself. In this
respect, too, outsiders often misunderstand the situation. One hears
often from travellers in America that the country must be dwarfing to
the intelligence of its workmen, because it uses so much machinery that
the individual workman comes to see only a small part of what is being
done in the factory and, so to say, works the same identical lever for
life. He operates always a certain small part of some other part of the
whole. Nothing could be less exact, and a person who comes to such a
conclusion is not aware that even the smallest duties are extremely
complex, and that, therefore, specialization does not at all introduce
an undesirable uniformity in labour. It is specialization on the one
hand which guarantees the highest mastery, and on the other lets the
workman see even more the complexity of what is going on, and inspires
him to get a full comprehension of the thing in hand and perhaps to
suggest a few improvements.

Any man who is at all concerned with the entire field of operations, or
who is moving constantly from one special process to another, can never
come to that fully absorbed state of the attention which takes
cognizance of the slightest detail. Only the man who has concentrated
himself and specialized, learns to note fine details; and it is only in
this way that he becomes so much a master in his special department that
any one else who attempts to direct him succeeds merely in interfering
and spoiling the output. In short, such a workman is face to face with
intricate natural processes, and is learning straight from nature. It is
in the matter of industrial technique exactly as in science. A person
not acquainted with science finds it endlessly monotonous, and cannot
understand how a person should spend his whole life studying beetles or
deciphering Assyrian inscriptions. But a man who knows the method of
science realizes that the narrower a field of study becomes, the more
full of variety and unexpected beauties it is found to be. The triumph
of technical specialization in America lies just in this. If a single
man works at some special part of some special detail of an industrial
process, he more and more comes to find in his narrow province an
amazing intricacy which the casual observer looking on cannot even
suspect; and only the man who sees this complexity is able to discover
new processes and improvements on the old. So it is that the specialized
workman is he who constantly contributes to perfect technique, proposes
modifications, and in general exercises all the intelligence he has, in
order to bring himself on in his profession. Just as we have seen how
the spirit of self-determination which resides at the periphery of the
body politic has been the peculiar strength of American political life,
so this free initiative in the periphery, this economic resourcefulness
of the narrow specialists, is the peculiar strength of all American

The spirit of self-initiative does not know pettiness. Any one who goes
into economic life merely for the sake of what he can get out of it,
thinks it clever to gain small, unfair profits; but whosoever views his
industry in a purely idealistic spirit, and really has some inner
promptings, is filled with an interest in the whole play—sees an
economic gain in anything which profits both capital and labour, and
only there, and so has a large outlook even within his narrow province.
The Americans constantly complain of the economic smallness of Europe,
and even the well-informed leaders of American industry freely assert
that the actual advance in American economic culture does not lie in the
natural resources of the country, but rather in the broad, free
initiative of the American people. The continental Europeans, it is
said, frustrate their own economic endeavours by being penny-wise and
observant of detail in the wrong place, and by lacking the courage to
launch big undertakings. There is no doubt that it was the lavishness of
nature which firstly set American initiative at work on a broad scale.
The boundless prairies and towering mountains which the pioneers saw
before them inspired them to undertake great things, and to overlook
small hindrances, and in laying out their first plans to overlook small
details. American captains of industry often say that they purposely pay
no attention to a good many European methods, because they find such
pedantic endeavour to economize and to achieve minute perfections to be
wasteful of time and unprofitable.

The same spirit is found, as well, in fields other than the industrial.
When the American travels he prefers to pay out round sums rather than
to haggle over the price of things, even although he pays considerably
more thereby than he otherwise would. And nothing makes him more angry
than to find that instead of stating a high price at the outset, the
person with whom he is dealing ekes out his profit by small additional
charges. This large point of view involves such a contempt of petty
detail as to astonish Europeans. Machines costing hundreds of thousands
of dollars, which were new yesterday, are discarded to-day, because some
improvement has been discovered; and the best is everywhere found none
too good to be used in this magnificent industrial system. If the outlay
is to correspond to the result, there must be no parsimony.

A similar trait is revealed in the way in which every man behaves toward
his neighbour. It is only the petty man who is envious, and envy is a
word which is not found in the American vocabulary. If one’s own
advantage is not the goal, but general economic progress, then the
success of another man is almost as great a pleasure as one’s own
success. It is for the American an æsthetic delight to observe, and in
spirit to co-operate with economic progress all along the line; and the
more others accomplish the more each one realizes the magnificence of
the whole industrial life. Men try to excel one another, as they have to
do wherever there is free competition; and such rivalry is the best and
surest condition for economic progress. Americans use every means in
their power to succeed, but if another man comes out ahead they neither
grumble nor indulge in envy, but rather gather their strength for a new
effort. Even this economic struggle is carried on in the spirit of
sport. The fight itself is the pleasure. The chess-player who is
checkmated in an exciting game is not sorry that he played, and does not
envy the winner.

This conviction, that one neither envies nor is envied, whereby all
competitive struggle comes to be pervaded with a certain spirit of
co-operation, ennobles all industrial activities, and the immediate
effect is a feeling of mutual confidence. The degree to which Americans
trust one another is by no means realized on the European Continent. A
man relies on the self-respect of his commercial associates in a way
which seems to the European mind almost fatuous, and yet herein lies
just the strength and security of the economic life of this country.

It is interesting, in a recently published harangue against the Standard
Oil Company, to read what a high-handed, Napoleonic policy Rockefeller
has pursued, and then, in the midst of the fierce accusations, to find
it stated that agreements involving millions of dollars and the economic
fate of thousands of people were made merely orally. All his
confederates took the word of Rockefeller to be as good as his written
contract, and such mutual confidence is everywhere a matter of course,
whether it is a millionaire who agrees to pay out a fortune or a street
urchin who goes off to change five cents. Just as public, so also
commercial, affairs get on with very few precautions, and every man
takes his neighbour’s check as the equivalent of money. The whole
economic life reveals everywhere the profoundest confidence; and
undoubtedly this circumstance has contributed, more than almost anything
else, to the successful growth of large organizations in America.

The spirit of self-initiative goes out in another direction. It makes
the American optimistic, and so sure of success that no turn of fortune
can discourage him. And such an optimism is necessary to the man who
undertakes great enterprises. It was an undertaking to cross the ocean,
and another to press on from the coast to the interior; it was an
undertaking to bring nature to terms, to conjure up civilization in a
wild country, and to overcome enemies on all hands; and yet everything
has seemed to succeed. With the expansion of the country has grown the
individual’s love of expansion, his delight in undertaking new
enterprises, not merely to hold his own, but to go on and to stake his
honour and fortune and entire personality in the hope of realizing
something as yet hardly dreamed of. Any Yankee is intoxicated with the
idea of succeeding in a new enterprise; he plans such things at his desk
in school, and the more venturesome they are the more he is fascinated.

Nothing is more characteristic of this adventurous spirit than the way
in which American railroads have been projected. In other countries
railroads are built to connect towns which already exist. In America the
railroad has created new towns; the engineer and capitalist have not
laid their tracks merely where the land was already tilled, but in every
place where they could foresee that a population could support itself.
At first came the railroad, and then the men to support it. The freight
car came first, and then the soil was exploited and made to supply the
freight. Western communities have almost all grown up around the railway
stations. To be sure, every railway company has done this in its own
interest, but the whole undertaking has been immediately productive of
new civilization.

Any person who optimistically believes that a problem has only to be
discovered in order to be solved, will be sure to develop that
intellectual quality which has always characterized the American: the
spirit of invention. There is no other country in the world where so
much is invented. This is shown not merely in the fact that an enormous
number of patents is granted every year, but also where there is nothing
to patent, the Yankee exercises his ingenuity every day. From the
simplest tool up to the most complicated machine, American invention has
improved and perfected, and made the theoretically correct practically
serviceable as well. To be sure, the cost of human labour in a thinly
settled country has had a great influence on this development; but a
special talent also has lain in this direction—a real genius for solving
practical problems. Every one knows how much the American has
contributed to the perfection of the telegraph, telephone, incandescent
light, phonograph and sewing-machine, to watch-making machinery, to the
steamboat and locomotive, the printing-press and typewriter, to
machinery for mining and engineering, and to all sorts of agricultural
and manufacturing devices. Invention and enterprise are seen working
together in the fact that every new machine, with all its improvements,
goes at once to every part of the country. Every farmer in the farthest
West wants the latest agricultural machinery; every artisan adopts the
newest improvements; in every office the newest and most approved
telegraphic and telephonic appliances are used; in short, every man
appropriates the very latest devices to further his own success. Of
course, in this way the commercial value of every improvement is greatly
increased, and this encourages the inventor to still further
productiveness. It so happens that larger sums of money are lavished in
perfect good faith in order to solve certain problems than any European
could imagine. If an inventor can convince a company that his principle
is sound, the company is ready to advance millions of dollars for new
experiments until the machine is perfected.

The extraordinarily wide adoption of every invention does not mean that
most inventions are made by such men as Edison and Bell and their
colleagues. Every factory workman is quite as much concerned to improve
the tools which his nation uses, and every artisan at his bench is busy
thinking out this or that little change in a process or method; and many
of them, after their work, frequent the public libraries in order to
work through technical books and the Patent Reports. It is no wonder
that an American manufacturer, on hearing that a new machine had been
discovered in Europe, conservatively declared that he did not know what
the machine was, but knew for sure that America would improve on it.

Only one consequence of the spirit of self-initiative remains to be
spoken of—the absolute demand for open competition. In order to exercise
initiative, a man must have absolutely free play; and if he believes in
the intrinsic value of economic culture, he will be convinced that free
play for the development of industrial power is abstractly and entirely
right. This does not wholly exclude an artificial protection of certain
economic institutions which are weak—as, for instance, the protection of
certain industries by means of a high tariff—so long as in every line
all men are free to compete with one another. Monopoly is the only
thing—because it strangles competition—which offends the instinct of the
American; and in this respect American law goes further than a European
would expect. One might suppose that, believing as they do in free
initiative, Americans would claim the right of making such industrial
combinations as they liked. When several parallel railroads, which
traverse several states and compete severely with one another, finally
make a common agreement to maintain prices, they seem at first sight to
be exercising a natural privilege. The traffic which suffers no longer
by competition is handled at a less expense by this consolidation, and
so the companies themselves and the travelling public are both
benefited. But the law of the United States takes a different point of
view. The average American is suspicious of a monopoly, even when it is
owned by the state or city; he is convinced from the beginning that the
service will in some way or other be inferior to what it would be under
free competition; and most of all, he dislikes to see any industrial
province hedged in so that competitors are no longer free to come in.
The reason why the trusts have angered and excited the American to an
often exaggerated degree is, that they approach perilously near to being

This spirit of self-initiative under free competition exists, of course,
not alone in individuals. Towns, cities, counties, and states evince
collectively just the same attitude; the same optimism and spirit of
invention and initiative, and the same pioneer courage, inspire the
collective will of city and state. Especially in the West, various
cities and communities do things in a sportsmanlike way. It is as if one
city or state were playing foot-ball against another, and exerting every
effort to win: and here once more there is no petty jealousy. It was
from such an optimistic spirit of enterprise, certainly, that the city
of St. Louis resolved to invite all the world to its exposition, and
that the State of Missouri gave its enthusiastic approval and support to
its capital city. The sums to be laid out on such bold undertakings are
put at a generous figure, and no one asks anxiously whether he is ready
or able to undertake such a thing, but he is fascinated by the thought
that such an industrial festival around the cascades of Forest Park,
near the City of St. Louis, will stimulate the whole industrial life of
the Mississippi Valley. One already sees that Missouri is disposed to
become a Pennsylvania of the West, and to develop her rich resources
into a great industry.

We must not suppose, in all this, that such a spirit of initiative
involves no risk, or that no disadvantages follow into the bargain. It
may be easily predicted that, just by reason of the energy which is so
intrinsic to it, self-initiative will sometime overstep the bounds of
peace and harmony. Initiative will become recklessness, carelessness of
nature, carelessness of one’s neighbour, and, finally, carelessness of
one’s self.

A reckless treatment of nature has, in fact, characterized the American
pioneer from the first. The wealth of nature has seemed so
inexhaustible, that the pioneers found it natural to draw on their
principal instead of living on their income. Everywhere they used only
the best which they found; they cut down the finest forests first, and
sawed up only the best parts of the best logs. The rest was wasted. The
farmers tilled only the best soil, and nature was dismantled and
depleted in a way which a European, who is accustomed to precaution,
finds positively sinful. And the time is now passed when this can go on
safely. Good, arable land can nowhere be had for nothing to-day; the
cutting down of huge forests has already had a bad effect on the
rainfall and water supply, and many efforts are now being made to atone
for the sins of the past by protecting and replanting. Intensive methods
are being introduced in agriculture; but the work of thoughtful minds
meets with a good deal of resistance in the recklessness of the masses,
who, so far as nature is in question, think very little of their
children’s children, but are greedy for instant profits.

The man, moreover, who ardently desires to play an important part in
industry is easily tempted to be indifferent of his fellows. We have
shown that an American is not jealous or distrustful of them, that he
gives and expects frankness, and that he respects their rights. But when
he once begins to play, he wants to win at any cost; and then, so long
as he observes the rules of the game, he considers nothing else; he has
no pity, and will never let his undertaking be interfered with by
sentimental reasons. There is no doubt at all that the largest American
industrial enterprises have ruined many promising lives; no doubt that
the very men who give freely to public ends have driven their chariots
over many industrial corpses. The American, who is so incomparably
good-natured, amiable, obliging, and high-minded, admits himself that he
is sharp in trade, and that the American industrial spirit requires a
sort of military discipline and must be brutal. If the captain of
industry were anxiously considerate of persons’ feelings, he would never
have achieved industrial success any more than a compassionate and
tearful army would win a victory.

But the American is harder on himself than on any one else. We have
shown how, in his work, he conserves his powers and utilizes them
economically; but he sets no bounds to the intellectual strain, the
intensity of his nervous activities, and only too often he ruins his
health in the too great strain which brings his success. The bodies of
thousands have fertilized the soil for this great industrial tree—men
who have exhausted their power in their exaggerated commercial
ambitions. The real secret of American success is that, more than any
other country in the world, she works with the young men and uses them
up. Young men are in all the important positions where high intellectual
tension is required.

In other directions, too, the valuable spirit of self-initiative shows
great weaknesses and dangers. The confidence which the American gives
his neighbour in business often comes to be inexcusable carelessness. In
reading the exposures made of the Ship-Building Trust, one sees how,
without a dishonest intent, crimes can actually be committed merely
through thoughtless confidence. One sees that each one of the great
capitalists here involved relied on the other, while no one really
investigated for himself.

There is another evil arising from the same intense activity, although,
to be sure, it is more a matter of the past than of the future. This is
the vulgar display of wealth. When economic usefulness is the main
ambition, and the only measure of success is the money which is won, it
is natural that under more or less primitive social conditions every one
should wish to attest his merits by displaying wealth. Large diamonds
have then much the same function as titles and orders; they are the
symbols of successful endeavour. In its vulgar form all such display is
now virtually relegated to undeveloped sections of the country. In the
parts where culture is older, where wealth is in its second or third
generation, every one knows that his property is more useful in the bank
than on his person.

In spite of this, the nation expends an unduly large part of its profits
in personal adornment, in luxuries of the toilet, in horses and
carriages and expensive residences. The American is bound to have the
best, and feels himself lowered if he has to take the second best. The
most expensive seats in an auditorium are always the best filled, and
the opera is thinly attended only when it is given at reduced prices. It
is just in the most expensive hotels that one has to engage a room
beforehand. Everywhere that expenditure can be observed by others, the
American would rather renounce a pleasure entirely than enjoy it in a
modest way. He wants to appear everywhere as a prosperous and
substantial person, and therefore has a decided tendency to live beyond
his means. Extravagance is, therefore, a great national trait.
Everything, whether large or small, is done with a free hand. In the
kitchen of the ordinary man much is thrown away which the European
carefully saves for his nourishment; and in the kitchens of the
government officials a hundred thousand cooks are at work, as if there
were every day a banquet. Even when the American economizes he is
fundamentally extravagant. His favourite way of saving is by buying a
life insurance policy; but when one sees how many millions of dollars
such companies spend in advertising and otherwise competing with one
another, and what prodigious amounts they take in, one cannot doubt that
they also are a means of saving for wealthy men, who, after all, do not
know what real economy is.

If the whole outward life is pervaded by this pioneer spirit of
self-initiative, there is another factor which is not to be overlooked;
it is the neglect of the æsthetic. Any one who loves beauty desires to
see his ideal realized at the present moment, and the present itself
becomes for him expressive of the past, while the man whose only desire
is to be active as an economic factor looks only into the future. The
bare present is almost valueless, since it is that which has to be
overcome; it is the material which the enterprising spirit has to shape
creatively into something else. The pioneer cannot be interested in the
present as a survivor of the past; it shows to him only that which is to
do, and admonishes his soul to prepare for new achievement. On Italian
soil one’s eye is offended by every false note in the general harmony.
The present, in which the past still lives, fills one’s consciousness,
and the repose of æsthetic contemplation is the chief emotion. But a man
who rushes from one undertaking to another seeks no unity or harmony in
the present; his retina is not sensitive to ugliness, because his eye is
forever peering into the future; and if the present were to be complete
and finished, the enterprising spirit would regret such perfection and
account it a loss—a restriction of his freedom, an end to his creation.
It would mean mere pleasure and not action. In this sense the American
expresses his pure idealism in speaking of the “glory of the imperfect.”

The Italian is not to be disparaged for being unlike the American and
for letting his eye rest on pleasing contours without asking what new
undertakings could be devised to make reality express his own spirit of
initiative. One must also not blame the American if he does not
scrutinize his vistas with the eye of a Florentine, if he is not
offended by the ugly remains of his nation’s past, the scaffolding of
civilization, or if he looks at them with pride, noting how restlessly
his countrymen have stuck to their work in order to shape a future from
the past. In fact, one can hardly take a step in the New World without
everywhere coming on some crying contrast between mighty growth and the
oppressive remains of outgrown or abortive activities. As one comes down
the monumental steps of the Metropolitan Museum, in which priceless
treasures of art are collected, one sees in front of one a wretched,
tumbled-down hut where sundry refreshments are sold, on a dirty
building-lot with a broken fence. It looks as if it had been brought
from the annual county fair of some remote district into this wealthiest
street of the world.

Of course such a thing is strikingly offensive, but it disturbs only a
person who is not looking with the eye of the American, who can
therefore not understand the true ethical meaning of American culture,
its earnest looking forward into the future. If the incomplete past no
longer met the American’s eye in all its poverty and ugliness and
smallness, he would have lost the mainspring of his life. That which is
complete does not interest him, while that which he can still work on
wholly fascinates and absorbs him. It is true here, as in every
department of American life, that superficial polish would be only an
imitation of success; friction and that which is æsthetically
disorganized, but for this very reason ethically valuable, give to his
life its significance and to his industry its incomparable progress.

                             CHAPTER TWELVE
                          _The Economic Rise_

_Introite, nam et hic dii sunt_—here, too, the gods are on their throne.
The exploiting of the country, the opening of the mines, the building of
factories and railroads, trade and barter, are not in question here as
the mere means of livelihood, but as a spontaneous and creative labour,
which is undertaken specifically in the interests of progress. In this
confession of faith we have found the significance of American
industrial life, in the spirit of self-initiative its greatest strength.
Only such men as desire to take part in the economic era of creation, to
meet their neighbours openly and trustingly and to rely on their spoken
word, in short, to believe in the intrinsic worth of industry—only such
men can weave the wonderful fabric of New World industry. A race of men
carrying on commerce merely in order to live, feeling no idealism
impelling them to industry, would never, even in this richly-endowed
America, have produced such tangible results or gained such power.

Nevertheless, the country itself must not be forgotten by reason of its
inhabitants. It was the original inducement to the inhabitants to turn
so industriously to the spade and plough. Where the spade has dug, it
has brought up silver and gold, coal and iron; and where the plough has
turned, it has evoked a mammoth growth of wheat and corn. Seas and
rivers, bays and mountains have produced a happy configuration of the
land and pointed out the routes for traffic; oil-wells have flown
freely, and the waterpower is inexhaustible; the supply of fish and
fowl, the harvests of tropical fruits and of cotton have been sufficient
to supply the world. And all this was commenced by nature, before the
first American set his foot on the continent.

And while it was the lavish hand of nature which first brought
prosperity to the inhabitants, this prosperity became, in its turn, a
new stimulus to the economic exploitation of further natural resources.
It provided the capital for new undertakings; it also helped on the
extraordinary growth of economic demand, it made the farmer and the
artisan the best patrons of thriving industries, and made the economic
circulatory system pulsate with increasing strength through the national

There are, besides the purely economic conditions, certain political and
administrative ones. American history has developed in a free atmosphere
such as cannot be had in countries with ancient traditions, and which,
even in the New World, at least in the eastern part of it, is
disappearing day by day. Of course, such elbow-room has not been an
unqualified blessing. It has been attended by evils and has made
sacrifices necessary. But these have always touched the individual. The
community has gained by the freedom of economic conditions. For
instance, railroads, such as were built through the whole West during
the pioneer years of America, would not be permitted for a moment by a
German government. Such flimsy bridges, such rough-and-ready road-beds,
such inadequate precautions on crossings were everywhere a serious
menace; but those who were injured were soon forgotten, while the
economic blessings of the new railroads which transported hundreds of
thousands of people into uninhabited regions, and left them to gather
the treasure of the soil, continued. They could never have been built if
people had waited until they were able to construct by approved methods.
After the great pioneer railroads had accomplished their mission, the
time came when they were replaced by better structures. And they have
been built over many times, until to-day the traffic is sufficiently
safe. It still belongs, in a way, to the confession of faith of this
religion of self-initiative that each man shall be free to risk not only
his property, but also his own life, for the sake of enterprise. No
board of commissioners may interfere to tell an American not to skirt a

Such instances of complete freedom, where life and limb are unsafe,
disappear day by day. Guide-posts are put at every railroad crossing,
and civil authorities take more and more interest in safety appliances
for factories and in the security of city buildings; in fact, hygienic
regulations in some Eastern cities to-day go even further than they go
in Germany. Nevertheless, in such matters as involve not dangers, but
merely traditions or preferences, a large amount of democratic freedom
can still be had in the New World. Over the broad prairies there are no
signs lawfully warning persons to turn to the right and not to walk on
the grass. The American himself not only regards this country as the
land of “unlimited possibilities,” but more specially he regards the
European Continent as the country of impossible limitations. Bureaucracy
is to his mind the worst enemy of industrial life, because it everywhere
provides the most trivial obstacles to that spirit of adventure and
daring which seeks to press on into the future; and in the end it is
sure to bring all enterprise to a standstill. It is important for this
freedom that the whole economic legislation is regulated, first of all,
not by the Union, but by the several states, and that thus every variety
of industrial life going on in any state shall be so well represented
that every attempt to bring up artificial restraints shall be nipped in
the bud.

To this negative factor is to be added a positive one. Every one knows
that the mighty growth of the American industry and of its whole
commercial life would not have been possible without the carefully
adapted protective tariff of recent years. The Dingley and the McKinley
tariff laws have not, of course, produced that great advance, but they
have powerfully aided it. And at the same time enormous sums have been
derived therefrom and expended by the government in improving the
water-ways and harbours. The government has spent vast sums in helping
agriculture, and done much to irrigate the arid portions of the country.
Economic problems in general receive great consideration in Washington
and in every state capital. Besides such general political activities,
there are more special ones. The nation’s agriculture, for instance, is
tremendously assisted by scientific researches, which are carried on by
the Department of Agriculture. The army of American consuls is
incomparably alert in seeking out favourable openings for American trade
with other nations, and the consular reports are distributed promptly
and free of charge from Washington to all parts of the country.

The political attitude of the nation works in still another way to
favour general prosperity. The country has a unified organization which
favours all economic enterprises. Although seventeen times as large as
Germany, the country is nevertheless one splendid unit without internal
customs barriers, under one law, and free from sectional distrusts. For,
wherever commercial intercourse goes on between different states, the
common federal law is in force.

Perhaps even more important than the national unity is the democratic
equality throughout the population. However diverse these eighty million
people may be, they form a homogeneous purchasing public. Every new
style or fashion spreads like wild-fire from New York to San Francisco,
and in spite of their differences, the day-labourer and the millionaire
both have a certain similarity of tastes and requirements, so that the
industrial producer and the distributor find it easy to make and keep in
stock all articles which are called for. Instead of the freakish and
fanciful demand which makes the European industrial life so difficult,
everybody in America wants the same pattern as his neighbour, perhaps a
little finer and better, but still the same general thing. And this
brings it about that producers can manufacture in large quantities, and
wholesale production and the ease of placing wares on the market
encourage again the uniformity of taste and requirement, and help on the
popular tendency toward mutual imitation throughout the country.

But now, instead of recounting the conditions which have helped to make
the story, we must narrate the story itself. The German can listen to it
with pleasure, since it is about one of Germany’s best patrons—a nation
which always buys from Germany in proportion to its own prosperity, and
one whose adversity would bring misfortune to Germany. The story can be
most quickly told in figures, as is the favourite American way; for, if
the American has a special mania, it is to heap up all sorts of

We shall best study the statistical variations through long intervals of
time, in order not to be led astray by temporary fluctuations. When, a
few years ago, an industrial and financial relapse had set in in
Germany, and England was suffering from the war in the Transvaal, while
America was undertaking a gigantic work of organization which promised
to have marvellous results, the United States suddenly appeared as the
economic mistress of the world, to the astonishment and apprehension of
all other countries. Soon after that German trade and industry began to
revive and England recovered itself, while in America industrial
extravagance and financial inflation were bringing about their necessary
evil consequences. Then the public opinion of other countries swung at
once to the other extreme, as if America’s success had been entirely
spurious. People suddenly turned about and believed that the time of
American prosperity was over, rejoiced with ghoulish glee over the
weakness of the enemy, despised his foolhardiness, and gossiped about
his industrial leaders. But it was only in other countries that men like
Schwab, the president of the Steel Trust, had been looked on as a
Napoleon of industry; and when he was not able to retain his position,
European papers were as pleased as if a Napoleonic army had been wiped
out. Such insignificant events of the day are able to distort the
judgment of great movements; picturesque mishaps strike the attention,
and are taken to indicate great movements.

The actual advance in economic life of the United States was not such a
sudden thing as it seemed to nervous Europe, nor was there any reverse
such as Europe delighted to record. To be sure, America has passed
through several great crises; but her history is nevertheless one of
steady, even and healthy development in economic organization. The
American himself is inclined to believe that severe crises are not to be
feared any more; but however that may be, the long-predicted downfall
has not come to-day, and is not even in sight. The general progress
persists, and the decline in stock-market securities, which has been
here and there abroad the signal for alarm, is itself a part of the
sound development. When one looks at the whole rise one realizes that
the young nation’s development has been great and powerful, and such as
was never before known in the history of civilization. Figures will show
this better than adjectives. What now do the United States produce? The
wheat of the country amounted, in the year 1850, to only 100 million
bushels; in 1870 to 235 millions; 522 millions in 1900; 637 in 1903. The
corn harvest was 592 millions in 1850; 1,094 in 1870; 2,105 in 1900;
2,244 in 1903. There were 52 million pounds of wool in 1850; 162 in
1870; 288 in 1900; 316 in 1902. But cotton is “king.” In 1850 the cotton
harvest amounted to 2.3 million bales; 3.1 millions in 1870; 9.4 in 1900
and 10.7 in 1903; 110,000 tons of sugar were produced in 1850 and last
year 310,000 tons. The dreaded American petroleum was not flowing in
1850. It appears in the statistical tables of 1859 in the modest
quantity of 8,400 gallons; in 1870 there were 220 million gallons; in
1900, 2,661 million, and in 1903 there were 3,707 million gallons. The
coal output of the country began in 1820 with 365 tons and amounted in
1850 to 3 million tons; in 1870 to 33 million; in 1900 to 240 million;
in 1902 to 269 million tons. In the middle of the last century 563,000
tons of iron ore were mined; 1.6 million tons in 1870; 13.7 in 1900, and
18 million in 1903. The manufacture of steel began in 1867 with 19,000
tons and in 1870 amounted to 68,000 tons, to 10.1 million tons in 1900;
14.9 millions in 1902. Of copper, 650 tons were mined in 1850; 12,000
tons in 1870; 270,000 tons in 1900; and 294,000 tons in 1902. The silver
production in the middle of the century was estimated at $50,000; in
1870 at $16,000,000, and in 1900 at $74,000,000; in the last three years
it has gone back to $71,000,000. The highest point was reached in 1892,
with $82,000,000. On the other hand, the production of gold has grown
steadily in the last twenty years, although it had reached its first
high point back in the fifties. In the year 1853, $65,000,000 worth of
gold was produced. The amount decreased slowly but steadily to
$30,000,000 in the year 1883, and has since risen almost steadily until
in 1903 it amounted to $74,000,000. The total output of minerals was
valued at $218,000,000 in 1870, and $1,063,000,000 in 1900.

This steady growth of natural products is repeated in the agricultural
and industrial spheres. The number of farms was given at 1.4 million in
the middle of the last century, with the total value of $3,967,000,000;
in 1870 there were 2.6 million farms valued at $8,944,000,000; and in
1900 there were 5.7 million, valued at $20,514,000,000. In 1870, 5.9
million people engaged in agriculture; 10.4 million in 1900. The total
value of agricultural products amounted, in 1870, to $1,958,000,000, and
in 1900 to $3,764,000,000. All domestic animals—cattle, horses, mules,
sheep and pigs—amounted in 1850 to $544,000,000; in 1870 to
$1,822,000,000; in 1900 to $2,228,000,000, and in 1903 to

The greatest growth, however, is shown in industry. In 1850 there were
123,000 industrial plants with 957,000 employees, paying wages of
$236,000,000, and with an output worth $1,019,000,000. In 1870 there
were 252,000 factories, with 2 million workmen, paying $775,000,000 in
wages, and with an output worth $4,232,000,000; in 1890 there were
3,550,000 factories, 4.7 million workmen, a salary list of
$2,283,000,000, and a product worth $9,372,000,000. In 1900 there were
512,000 factories, with 5.7 million workmen, a pay-roll of $273,500,000,
and an output worth $13,039,000,000. Statistics here cannot be brought
up to the present time, since a careful industrial census is made only
every ten years; but this glance over the half century shows at once
that there has been a very steady increase, and that it is no mushroom
growth due to the recently enacted protective tariffs.

The economic rise of the nation is well reflected in its foreign
commerce. If we disregard the imports and exports of precious metals,
the international commerce of the United States shows a total import in
the year 1903 of $1,025,719,237, and a total export of $1,420,141,679.
We must analyze these two figures in several ways, and compare them with
similar figures in the past. In one way they show a decrease, since in
the year 1903 the exports exceeded the imports by over 394 millions, but
in the preceding year by 477 millions. This unfavourable change is not
from any decrease in exports, but from a remarkable increase in imports;
in fact, the exports were 38 millions more than during the previous
year, while the imports were 122 millions more.

Thus, in the year 1903, the total foreign trade of the United States
exceeded that of all previous years, and reached the astonishing figure
of $2,445,000,000. Although before the year 1900 the total trade was
less than two billions, it reached the sum of one billion as early as
the year 1872; exports and imports together amounted in 1830 to 134
millions; in 1850 to 317 millions; in 1860 to 687 millions; in 1870 to
828 millions; in 1880 to 1,503 millions; in 1890 to 1,647 millions, and
in 1900 to 2,244 millions. During this period the balance of trade
shifted frequently. In 1800, for instance, there was an import balance
of 21 millions, and similarly in the decades ending in 1810, 1820, and
1830. In the decade which ended in 1840 there was an average export
balance of 29 millions. The tables turned in the next decade ending in
the year 1850, when there was an average import balance of 29 millions;
in the decade ending 1860, of 20 millions, and in the following decade,
of 43 millions. But then the exports suddenly increased, and have
exceeded the imports for the last twenty-five years. In 1880 the imports
were 667 millions, and the exports 835 millions; in 1890 the imports
were 789 millions, and the exports 857 millions; in 1900 the imports
were 849 millions, and the exports 1,394 millions; in 1901 the imports
were 823, and the exports 1,487; in 1902 the imports were 903, and the
exports 1,381; and in 1903, as given above, the imports were 1,025, and
the exports 1,420 millions.

Let us now look at the American imports more closely. Letting all our
figures represent million dollars, we learn that during the last year
imports of breadstuffs and live animals were 212; of raw materials 383;
of half-finished products 97; of manufactured products 169, and of
articles of luxury in general 145. The food products imported, which
comprise to-day 21 per cent. of all imports, comprised 31 per cent. in
1880; and at that time the necessary manufactured articles were also a
larger proportion of the whole, being then 20 per cent. against 16 per
cent. to-day. On the other hand, raw materials, which were then 25 per
cent., are to-day 38 per cent., and articles of luxury have increased
from 10 to 14 per cent. of the total imports. Of the half-manufactured
products imported, the most important were the chemicals, valued at 38
millions; then come wooden wares worth 11, oil worth 10, iron worth 8,
skins and leather worth 5 millions. Of raw materials the most valuable
were skins and furs, which amounted last year to 58 millions; raw silk
was next, with 50; vegetable fibres, such as hemp, 34; rubber 32, iron
and steel 30. This last figure is an exceptional one, and is due to the
fact that during the year the American steel industries were taxed to
their utmost by consumers’ demands. In the year 1902 the iron and steel
imports were only 9, and in 1901 only 3 millions. The imports of raw
chemicals amounted to 23 millions, and tin the same; wool 21, copper 20;
wood 11, and cotton 11.

The exports, arranged according to the sources of production, amounted,
last year, to 873 million dollars’ worth of agricultural products, 407
of factory products, 57 of products of the forest, 39 of mines, and 7
from fisheries. Of the remainder, 6 millions were from other domestic
sources, and 27 had come from other countries. The agricultural exports
reached their highest point in 1901, when they amounted to 943, and also
the export of manufactured articles is now 3.4 less than in 1901 and 26
less than in 1900. But the statistics of manufactures show sufficiently
that there has been no decrease in output, but merely that the home
consumption has increased. Apart from these accidental fluctuations of
the past three years, the exports have steadily increased. In 1800 the
agricultural exports were 25 millions; the industrial 2; in 1850 the
former were 108, the latter 17; in 1880 they were 685 and 102
respectively, and in 1900 they were 835 and 433.

If we look at the foreign trade with regard to the countries traded
with, we shall find Europe first in both exports and imports. In the
year 1903 the imports from Europe to the United States were 547, the
exports to Europe 1,029; the imports from Canada and Mexico were 189,
and the exports thereto 215. From South America the imports were 107,
the exports 41; from Asia the imports were 147, the exports 58; from
Australia they were 21 and 37, and from Africa 12 and 38.

The trade balances with individual countries in Europe were as follows:
England bought from the United States 523 million dollars’ worth, and
sold the value of 180; then comes Germany, which bought 174 and sold
111; France bought only 70 and sold 87; Austria bought 6 and sold 10;
Russia bought 7 and sold the same amount. After England and Germany the
best purchaser was Canada, which imported from the United States 123 and
exported thereto 54. Germany imports more from the United States than
from any other country. Germany imports very much less from Russia, and
still less from Austria and Great Britain. Among the countries to which
Germany exports her wares the United States has third place, England and
Austria having the first and second. America imports from Germany
firstly drugs and dye-stuffs, then manufactured cotton, silk, and iron
goods, books, pictures, and works of art, clay ware, china, lithographs,
toys, etc. No other class amounts to more than 10 million marks. There
is a steady increase in almost every class, and the total imports from
Germany were 17 per cent. larger last year than during the year
previous; 71 per cent. more than in 1898; 138 per cent. more than in
1880; 198 per cent. more than in 1875, and 343 per cent. more than in

The principal export of the United States to Germany is cotton. Ten
years ago the amount exported was 34 million dollars’ worth; in 1901, it
was 76; in the following year only 70, but in the year 1903, 84, the
amount exported in that year being 957,000,000 pounds. The exports of
wheat to Germany amounted in 1896 to only 0.608 million dollars; in the
following year to 1.9; in the next year to 3.1; in 1899 to 7.6; and in
1902 to 14.9; but in 1903 to only 11.1. The exports of corn fluctuate
still more widely. In the year 1901 Germany bought 17 millions, in 1903
only 6.6. The exportation of petroleum reached its largest figure in
1900, with 8 millions, and in 1893 was 6.3.

Enough of these dry figures. They would look still more striking if
compared with the statistics of other countries. More wheat grows in the
United States than in any other country, and more corn than in all the
other countries put together; more cattle and hogs are slaughtered than
in any other country, and three-fourths of the world’s cotton harvest is
grown in the United States. No other country mines so much coal,
petroleum, iron, copper, and lead, or produces so much leather or
charcoal. In short, the most important articles entering into
manufactures are more plentiful than in any other country of the world.
But even on looking over these figures of international trade, one does
not get so adequate an impression of the immense economic activity as by
actually seeing the wheels of this great machine in motion. One must see
the power stations at Niagara, the steel works of Pittsburg, the
slaughter-houses of Chicago, the textile factories of New England, the
printing-presses of New York, the watch factories of Massachusetts and
Illinois, the grain-elevators of Buffalo, the mills of Minneapolis, the
locomotive and ship works near Philadelphia, and the water front of New
York City, in order to understand the tremendous forces which are
constantly at work.

A single factory turns out 1,500 locomotives every year. A Chicago
factory which makes harvesting machinery covers 140 acres, employs
24,000 men, and has made two million machines which are now in use. It
has fifty ships to bring its wood and iron, and every day loads a
hundred freight cars with its finished products. And enterprise on this
large scale is found not merely in staple articles, but in more trivial
wares. It is a familiar fact that in Germany the large department stores
make very slow progress against small shops, while in America the great
shops meet at once with popular favour. Their huge advertisements in
newspapers and magazines vie with their shop windows in attracting
trade. It is nothing uncommon for the manufacturer of a breakfast food
or some chemical preparation to spend over a million dollars a year for
humorous advertisements. In the _Ladies’ Home Journal_ one insertion on
the advertising pages costs six dollars per line, and the lines are
short. A short time ago a soap concern leased the back outside cover of
a magazine for a period of time and paid $150,000 therefor.

More impressive, however, than anything that the traveller is able to
see to-day is the comparison with what existed yesterday. Our figures
have very well shown that the speed of development has been rapid
everywhere and sometimes almost explosive. A typical example of this is
found in agricultural machinery. The manner of tilling the ground was
wholly revolutionized in 1870, when the first ploughing-machine was
offered for sale to the American farmer. Since then improvements have
been made continually, until to-day every farmer rides on his machines;
and the steam-plough, which sows and harrows at the same time, has
reduced the amount of time spent on these processes to one-fifteenth of
what it formerly was, and the cost of every sheaf of wheat to
one-quarter. The machines of to-day sow and fertilize at the same time,
and place the seeds at just the desired depth beneath the surface. There
are other machines which take the corn from the cob, at the same time
cutting up the cobs, and turn out a bushel of corn in a minute, for
which a good labourer used to take two hours.

The threshing-flail was abandoned long ago, and the combined mowing and
threshing machine is perhaps the most clever invention of all. It cuts
the kernels from the stalk, threshes and winnows them, and packs them in
bags; and all this as quickly as the horses are able to travel down the
field. The machines which separate the cotton from the cotton seed are
the only thing that makes it possible to gather a harvest of ten million
bales. In former times it took a person about ten hours to remove the
seeds from a pound and a half of cotton. The machine cleans 7,000 pounds
in the same time.

In just the same way the inventive genius of the American has everywhere
increased the output of his factories. His chief aim is to save labour,
and hence to devise automatic processes wherever they are possible, so
that turning a crank or touching a lever shall accomplish as much as
hard work once accomplished. This continual process of invention and
improvement, and the fertile resourcefulness of every workman and
capitalist, their readiness to introduce every improvement without delay
and without regard to expense, have contributed more to the enormous
economic progress than all the protective tariff or even than the
natural resources of the soil itself.

Extreme jingoes see in this huge growth only the beginning of something
yet to come, and in their dreams imagine a day when America shall rule
the markets of the world. But no one should be deceived by such ideas.
The thoughtful American knows very well that, for instance, the great
increase of his export trade has by no means overcome all obstacles. He
knows that American wages are high, and that prosperity makes them more
so, because the American workman is better able than the European to
demand his share of all profits. Also the thoughtful American does not
expect to gain the European market by “dumping” his wares. In the
apprehension of dull times he may snatch an expedient for getting rid of
accumulations which the home market will not take off his hands. In
ordinary times industry will not do this, because it knows the
demoralizing effect produced on the home country when it is known that
the manufacturer is selling more cheaply abroad than at home. The
American is afraid of demoralizing the domestic market more than
anything else; since, owing to the strong tendency toward industrial
imitation, any economic depression spreads rapidly, and can easily cause
a general collapse of prices. Even the elaborate pains taken to replace
human labour in the American labour-saving machines are often quite made
up for by the thoughtless waste of by-products and by the general
high-handedness of conducting business.

While America has a tremendous advantage in the fact that coal can be
readily brought to the industrial centres, and that the products can be
delivered cheaply throughout the country, it stands under the
disadvantage that most of its exports are shipped in foreign bottoms, so
that the freight charges go to foreigners; for the American
merchant-marine is wholly inadequate to the needs of American trade. If
America is strong by reason of protective tariff, England intends,
perhaps, to remind her daughter country that the American game can be
played by two. Protection is no monopoly. While the natural wealth of
this country is inexhaustible, the American knows that the largest
profits will go to the country which manufactures them; and while the
American is energetic and intelligent in getting a foothold in foreign
markets, he finds that other nations also have some counterbalancing
virtues which he neither has nor can get. First of these is the patience
to study foreign requirements, and then the ways of guarding against
wastefulness. He has one incomparable advantage, as we have seen—his
economic idealism, his belief in the intrinsic value of economic
progress, his striving to be economically creative in order to satisfy
the restlessness which is in him. The economic drawback of this point of
view is not far to seek. The spirit of individual initiative awakens in
the workman the demand for equal rights, and intensifies the fight
between capital and labour more than in any other country, and puts such
chains on industry as are spared to America’s competitors in the markets
of the world. In short, the thoughtful American knows very well that the
markets of the world are to be won for his products only one by one, and
that he will meet competitors who are his equals; that there will be
difficulties on difficulties, and that the home market from time to time
will make heavy imports necessary. He knows that he cannot hope simply
to overthrow the industry of all Europe, nor to make the industrial
captains of the New World dictators of the earth.

That which he does expect, however, is sure to happen; namely, that the
progress of America will be in the future as steady as it has been in
the past. The harvests of all the states will not always prosper, nor
speculators be always contented with their profits, but the business
life of the nation as a whole, unless all signs fail, need fear no
setbacks or serious panics.

The United States have gone through six severe crises—in 1814, 1819,
1837, 1857, 1873, and 1893. There is much to indicate that the trite
idea of the rhythmical recurrence of crises will be given up henceforth.
And although just now, after years of great expansion, contraction is
setting in, still the times are not to be compared with preceding
crises, and particularly not with the bitter days of 1893. Let us
examine what happened in that year. The unhappy experiences of the early
nineties resulted naturally from an abnormal expansion of credit. Five
or six years of prosperity had gone before, and therewith every industry
which contributed to personal gratification was stimulated to excess. An
unreasonable craze for building went over the country, and real estate
rose constantly. But the country had not developed economically in other
directions to a corresponding degree. Too many superfluous undertakings
had been started, and houses and lands were everywhere heavily
mortgaged. As early as 1890 things began to tremble, and three years
later the final crash came. More than 15,000 bankruptcies followed one
another during that year, of which the total obligations were
$350,000,000; and in the three following years matters were hardly any
better. Everything was paralyzed. The farmer was in debt, the artisan
out of employment, the miner had to be fed by charity, and since the
purchasing power of millions of people was destroyed, there was no one
to support industry and trade. It was a veritable economic collapse,
with all the symptoms of danger; but the organism recovered without the
aid of a physician, by its own healthy reaction, and in such wise that a
relapse will hardly take place in the future.

The catastrophe prepared for the return to strength by destroying many
business concerns which were not fit to survive, and leaving only the
strongest in the field. But this result is, of course, not a lasting
one, because in prosperous years all sorts of poor businesses start up
again; good years stimulate superfluous production. The permanent result
was the lesson which industry learned, in prudence and economy. There is
very much in this direction still to be learned, yet the last crisis
accomplished a great deal. For instance, in the stock-yards a single
company had formerly thrown away annually portions of the animals which
would have yielded six million pounds of lime, 30 million pounds of fat,
and 105 million pounds of fertilizer, and a few years later the total
dividends of that company were paid by the by-products which had been
thrown away a short time before. The same thing has happened in the
mines and oil-wells, in the fields and in the forests.

Owing to the special gift which the American has for invention, this
period brought out a great number of devices looking toward economy. In
iron factories and coal mines, and in a thousand places where industry
was busy, expenses were cut down and profits were increased, more
labour-saving devices were invented, and all sorts of processes were
accomplished by ingenious machines. American industry derived advantages
from this period in which the nation had to be economical, which it will
never outlive.

Although such great economy helps out in bad times, it does not in
itself revive trade. It is difficult to say where and how the revival
set in, since the most diverse factors must have been at work. But the
formation of the great trusts was not a cause of such revival, but
merely a symptom of it. The real commencement seems to have been the
great harvest which the country enjoyed in the fall of 1897. When wheat
was scarce in Russia and India, and therefore throughout the world,
America reaped the largest harvest in years, and despite the enormous
quantity the European demand carried prices up from week to week. The
farmer who in 1894 had received forty-nine cents for each bushel of
wheat, now received eighty-one cents, and at the same time had his bins
full. Of course there could be only one result. The farmers who had been
economizing and almost impoverished for several years became very
prosperous, and called for all sorts of things which they had had to go
without—better wagons and farming implements, better clothing, and
better food. In a country where agriculture is so important, this means
prosperity for all industries.

The shops in every village were busy once more, and the large industries
again started up one by one. The effect on the railroads was still more
important. The good times had stimulated the building of many competing
lines of railroad, which were very good for the country, but less
profitable to their owners. The lean years just passed had brought great
demoralization to these lines. One railroad after another had gone into
a receiver’s hands, and the service was crippled. Every possible cent
was saved and coaches and road-beds were sparingly renewed. Now came an
enormous freight demand to carry the great harvest to market, and to
serve the newly revived industries. The railroads rapidly recovered;
their service was restored. The railroads brought prosperity once more
to the iron and steel industries; new rails and ties were absolutely
necessary, and the steel industry started forward and set everything
else in motion with it. Artisans became prosperous again and further
stimulated the industries which they patronized; coal was wanted
everywhere, and so the mines awakened to new life.

Then the Spanish War was begun and brought to the nation an unexpected
amount of self-confidence, which quickened once more its industrial
activity. Such were the internal conditions which made for growth, and
the external conditions were equally favourable. In 1898 America
harvested 675 million bushels of wheat, and the enormous quantity of 11
million bales of cotton. By chance, moreover, the production of gold
increased to $64,000,000; and this, with the enormous sums which foreign
countries paid for American grain, considerably increased the money in
circulation. This was the time for the stock market to enjoy a similar
boom. During the crisis it had nervously withheld from activity and
looked with distrust on the West and South, which were now being
prospered by great harvests. Everything had formerly been mortgaged in
those regions, and from the despair of the Western farmer the
ill-advised silver schemes had arisen to fill the eastern part of the
country with anxiety. But now the election of McKinley had assured the
safety of the currency; the silver issue was laid low; the debts of the
Western farmer had been paid within a few years by magnificent crops,
and the Western States had come into a healthy state of prosperity. Now
the stock markets could pluck up courage. In the stock market of New
York in the year 1894 only 49,000,000 shares were bought and sold. In
1897 the market began to recover, and 77,000,000 shares were exchanged;
in 1898 there were 112,000,000, and in 1899, 175,000,000 shares.

In the winter of 1898–99 the formation of trusts commenced in good
earnest, and this was a glad day for the stock markets. Large amounts of
capital which had been only cautiously offered now sought investment,
and since the market quotations could rise more quickly than industries
could grow, it was a favourable time for reorganizing industry and
making great combinations with a capital proportioned to the happy
industrial outlook. In the State of New Jersey alone, a state which
specially invited all such organizations by means of its very lenient
laws of incorporation, hundreds of such combinations were incorporated
with a total nominal capital of over $4,000,000,000. To be sure, in just
this connection there was very soon a recoil. In December of 1899, a
great many of these watered-stock issues collapsed, although the
industries themselves went on unharmed. But this activity of the stock
market, in spite of its fluctuating quotations, was of benefit to
industrial life.

Meanwhile wealth in town and country increased, owing to the general
activity of all factors. In a few years the number of savings-banks
accounts was doubled, and railroads had only the one complaint—that they
could not get enough cars to carry all the wheat, corn, wood, iron,
cattle, coal, cotton, and manufactures offered for transportation. In
two years the number of money-orders sent through the post-offices
increased by 7 millions, and the number of letters and packages by 361
millions. Now, too, came a time of magnificent philanthropy; private
endowments for education and art increased in one year more than

Along with all this came an increase in foreign trade; here, too, bad
times had prepared the way. When the home market was prostrate, industry
had sought with great energy to get a footing in foreign markets; and by
low prices, assiduous study of foreign demands, and good workmanship, it
had slowly conquered one field after another, so that when good times
came there was a splendid foundation built for a foreign commerce.
America sold bicycles and agricultural machinery, boots, cotton cloth,
paper, and watches, and eventually rails, bridges, and locomotives in
quantities which would never have been thought of before the panic. And
the country became at the same time more than ever independent of
European industry. In 1890 America bought $357,000,000 of foreign
manufactures and sold of her own only $151,000,000. In 1899 its
purchases were $100,000,000 less and its exports nearly $200,000,000

And at the same time, owing to the tremendous crops, the total export of
native products reached the sum of $1,233,000,000, and therewith the
United States had for the first time reached the highest place among the
exporting countries of the world—a position which had formerly belonged
to Great Britain. The trade balance of the United States, even in the
first year of prosperity, 1898, brought $615,000,000 into the country.
The year in which the American Navy, by a rapid succession of victories,
demonstrated that the nation was politically a world power, brought the
assurance that it was no less a world power commercially. Already the
Russian trans-Siberian Railway was using American rails, American
companies were building bridges in India, American cotton goods driving
out British competition in China, and the movement was still going on.
One large harvest followed another.

The wheat harvest in 1901 reached the unprecedented figure of 736
million bushels, and in 1902 of 987 millions. In the same year there
were 670 million bushels of barley, and as many as 2,523 million bushels
of corn. A corn harvest is almost always profitable, because it keeps
and can easily be stored until the right time comes to sell it; and
then, too, the farmers are always ready to use it for feed, which
further helps its price. Corn has done more than any other harvest to
bring wealth into the West. The cotton crop stayed at its ten-million
mark, and nearly 70 million barrels of petroleum flowed every year. The
demands made on the railroads increased month by month, until finally
last year there were weeks in which no freight could be received,
because the freight yards were full of unloaded cars. And at the head of
everything moved the iron and steel industries. The larger the harvests
the more lively was the industry of the country, and the more busy the
factories and railroads became the more the iron industry prospered. The
manufacture of iron and steel increased steadily, and in 1898 amounted
to 11.9 million meter-tons of pig-iron, and 9 million of steel; in 1900,
to 14 of pig-iron and 10 of steel; in 1902, to 18 and 15: while the
production of the entire earth was only 44 and 36 respectively.

But in spite of this tremendous growth, the prices also rose. Railroads
which in the spring had made contracts for new rails were able a few
months later to sell their old rails at prices which were 25 per cent.
higher than the former price of new rails, because meanwhile the price
of steel had risen enormously. If it is true that the iron industry can
be taken as an index of national prosperity, there is no doubt at all
that prosperity was here. No city in the country experienced such a
growth in its banking as Pittsburg, where the banking transactions in
1899 amounted to $1,500,000,000.

This tempestuous expansion in every direction, which lasted from 1897 to
1903, is no longer going on. A counter-movement has set in again. So
many factors are at work that it is hard to say where the reaction
commenced, although undoubtedly the great coal strikes were the first
important indication. The feverish building activity of the country is
very largely over, and this decrease has considerably affected the steel
industry. Perhaps the refusal of bankers further to countenance the
financial operations of the railroads has been an even more important
matter. During the years of prosperity the railroads had obtained credit
so easily that the scale of expenditure on most railroads had become too
lavish, and in particular large sums had been spent in converting
railroad shares into bonds. Now the financial world began to react and
refused to furnish any more funds, whereon the railroads, which were
among the best patrons of the steel industry, had to retrench. And this
depressed the state of business, and the otherwise somewhat diminished
industry cut down the freight traffic. Other industries had to suffer
when the building and iron industries declined. The purchasing power of
the working-man has decreased somewhat, and general industry is a trifle
dull. This has affected stock quotations, and nervousness in financial
circles has been increased by the mishaps and miscalculations of
well-known operators. This has worked back in various directions, and so
it is natural that pessimists at home and the dear friends of the
country abroad have predicted a panic.

But it will not come. The situation has been too largely corrected, and
the country has learned a lasting lesson from previous years. When a
collapse came in the early nineties, after a time of prosperity and
over-expenditure in every sort of undertaking, the national situation
was in every way different. There was a great deal of real weakness, and
there were many unnecessary and unconservative business ventures on
foot. All this is different to-day. The credit which the railroads at
that time had overdrawn on had been used to lay thousands of miles of
tracks where as yet there was no population. During the recent years of
prosperity, on the contrary, the railroads have been extended relatively
little, and the expenditures have been mainly for improved equipment and
service. The railroads have been made more efficient and substantial,
their indebtedness is less, and the considerable contraction of business
cannot do them serious harm. Indeed, many persons believe that the great
strain which the boom of the last few years has put on the railroads has
been a decided disadvantage to them. The excessive traffic has disturbed
regular business, increased the danger from accidents, and considerably
raised the charges for maintenance. In general, the railroads would
prefer a normal to an abnormal traffic demand.

The same is true of industry. Such tremendous pressure as the last few
years have brought cannot be borne without loss. The factories were
obliged to hire working-men much below the average grade of
intelligence, and the slight decline of industrial demand has made it
possible to dismiss the inferior men and to keep only the more
efficient. Industry itself is to-day like the railroads, thoroughly
sound and prosperous, and the small fluctuations in profits are not
nearly so great as the declines in market quotations.

Financial operations and labour are largely independent of each other.
The output can be undisturbed when the value of shares is being wiped
out in the market. American stocks do not represent the actual value of
the industrial plants which have been combined to form a trust, but
represent in part certain advantages which it is calculated will accrue
from the consolidation of business—economies of administration and
obviation of competition. The real economic life will not be damaged if
such shares, which for the most part have remained in the strongboxes of
the very rich, decline from their fictitious values. Such fluctuations
have always happened, and may happen in the very height of prosperity,
without doing any harm to industry itself. Thus, for instance, in 1898
an enormous over-speculation commenced in copper shares. Their price was
artificially raised and raised, and in the summer of 1899 this house
built of share certificates collapsed, and great was the fall thereof;
but the price of copper itself was uninfluenced. A pound of copper in
the year 1897 brought only the average price of 11 cents; in 1899 its
average price was 17 cents, although the copper securities were going
down steadily. Not only is industry itself on a sound basis, and the
improvements which it introduced in the last panic are not only still in
force, but also certain needs have now been met at home which formerly
were met only by foreign countries; and at the same time commerce has
been so energetically carried into other countries, that there is now a
readier outlet than ever in case the domestic purchasing power should
again be suspended.

But there are still more important factors. The first of these is the
recent and complete independence of this country from European capital.
Since year after year the exports of the United States to Europe have
exceeded the imports by hundreds of millions of dollars, the debt which
Europe so contracted has been paid for the most part by returning the
industrial and other bonds which Europe owned against America. It was
this which had greatly contributed to the crisis in the early nineties;
Europe withdrew her capital. In 1892 the United States paid back
$500,000,000 of European capital, and to-day very little is left to pay.
In 1893 the United States exported $108,000,000 in gold, but imported
only $22,000,000. In the year 1898 the imports of gold to the United
States were $105,000,000 more than the exports. Last year the balance
was still in favour of the United States; and it would be impossible
to-day, in case of any stringency in the money market of the country,
for the withdrawal of European capital to precipitate a panic.

Another factor is that the political situation is now certain, as it was
not at the time of the last panic. The silver schemes of the West then
filled the country with apprehension, whereas to-day there are no such
political fears. However the Presidential election may turn out, there
will be no dangerous experiments tried with the currency; and even if
both parties should mildly oppose the trusts, the nation nevertheless
knows that just the formation of these trusts has contributed to the
steadiness and security of economic prosperity, that it has done away
with unnecessary competition, has brought about an orderly and uniform
production, and that although the purchasers of watered stocks may have
been bitten, the purchasers of the finished products have suffered
little inconvenience.

Then there are two other factors whose significance for economic
solidity cannot be overestimated. The first of these is the increasing
independence of the agricultural West, and the second is the industrial
revival of the South. The financial condition of the New York Stock
Exchange to-day no more represents the industrial life of the whole
nation, as it did ten years ago. The West, which before the panic of
1893 was up to its ears in debts owned by the East, is now, by reason of
six tremendous harvests, prosperous and independent, and its purchasing
power and business enterprise are no longer affected by the fluctuations
of Wall Street. Even if the shares of all New Jersey corporations should
collapse, the nation could continue to buy and sell, produce,
manufacture, and transport, because the Western agricultural states
would suffer no relapse of prosperity. They have paid off their
mortgages and laid money by; the farmer has bought his daughter a
parlour organ, sent his sons to college, and bent all his energies to
making his West into an economic paradise. Migration has once more set
in from the Eastern to the Western States, while during the poor years
it had almost stopped; and Western economic influence is asserting
itself more and more in the political field.

The same is more or less true of the South. In former times, whenever a
cotton harvest brought prosperity, the South still did not take the
trouble to utilize its ample resources outside of the plantations. It
did not try to mine its coal and iron deposits, nor exploit its forests,
nor grow wheat and corn, nor manufacture cotton into cloth, nor the
cottonseed into oil. It left all this to the North. But during hard
times the South has learned its lesson, and at the time of the last
great revival the whole South developed an almost undreamed-of economic
activity. The exploitation of forests and coal and iron deposits made
great strides, and the factories turned out articles to the value of
$2,000,000,000. Cotton is still the staple article of the South, but the
bales no longer have to be sent to the North to be made into cloth. As
early as 1899 there were 5 million spindles in operation, and the
manufacture of cotton has made the South more independent than any
number of bales produced for export could have made it.

This economic independence of one another of large sections of the
country, and at the same time of European capital, combined with the
large increase of commerce with the whole world, the improvement in
economic appliances, and a surprising growth in technical science and
technical instruction, has created a national economic situation which
is so different from that which prevailed in the beginning of the
nineties, that there is no analogy to justify the pessimist in
predicting another such panic. It had to come at that time. Industrial
forces had suffered a serious disaster and had to go back to camp in
order to recuperate. Since then they have been striding forward,
swerving a little now and then, it may be, to avoid some obstacle, but
they are still marching on as they have marched for seven years with
firm and steady step, and keeping time with the world-power tune which
the national government is playing.

                            CHAPTER THIRTEEN
                        _The Economic Problems_

We have aimed to speak of the American as he appears in the economic
world—of the American in his actual economic life and strife—rather than
merely of his inanimate manufactures. That is, we have wished specially
to show what forces have been at work in his soul to keep him thus
busied with progress. And although we have gone somewhat further, in
order to trace the economic uplift of the last decades, nevertheless we
have chiefly aimed merely to show the workings of his mind and heart—not
the economic history of the American, but the American as little by
little he builds that history, has been the point of interest.

Seen from this point of view, everything which stands in the foreground
of the actual conflict becomes of secondary interest. The problems
leading to party grievances which are solved now one way, now another,
and which specially concern different portions of society, different
occupations or geographical sections, contribute very little to reveal
the traits that are common to all sections, and that must, therefore,
belong to the typical American character. If we have given less thought
to the political problems of the day than to the great enduring
principles of democracy, we need still less concern ourselves with the
disputes of the moment in the economic field. The problems of
protection, of industrial organization, of bimetallism, and of labour
unions are not problems for which a solution can be attempted here.

And nevertheless, we must not pass by all the various considerations
which bear on these questions. We might neglect them as problems of
American economy; and purely technical matters, like bank reform or
irrigation, we shall indeed not discuss. But as problems which
profoundly perplex the national mind, exercise its best powers, and
develop its Americanism, silver, trusts, tariff, and labour unions
require minuter consideration. The life and endeavour of the Americans
are not described if their passionate interest in such economic
difficulties is not taken into account; not, once more, as problems
which objectively influence the developing nation, but as problems which
agitate the spirit of the American. An exhaustive treatment is, of
course, out of the question, if for no other reason than that it would
distort our perspective of things. Had we only the objective side of the
problems to consider, we might, perhaps, doubt even whether there were
any problems; whether they were not rather simple events, bringing in
their train certain obvious consequences, whether deplorable or
desirable. These economic problems are, indeed, not in the least
problematical. The silver question will not be brought up again; the
trusts will not be dissolved; the protective tariff will not be taken
off and labour unions will not be gotten rid of. These are all natural
processes, rather than problems; but the fact that these events work
diversely on men’s feelings, are greeted here with delight and there
with consternation, and are accompanied by a general chorus of joy and
pain, gives the impression that they are problems. This impression
seizes the American himself so profoundly that his own reaction comes to
be an objective factor of importance in making history. It is not to be
doubted that the course of these much-discussed economic movements is
considerably influenced by prejudices, sentiments, and hobbies.

                         _The Silver Question_

Perhaps the power of mere ideas—of those which are clear, and, even
more, those which are confused—is shown in none of these problems more
strongly than in the silver question. If any problem has been really
solved, it is this one; and still no one can say that it has dropped out
of the American mind, although, for strategic reasons, politicians
ignore it. The sparks of the fire still glow under the ashes of two
Presidential campaigns. The silver schemes have too strongly fixed
public attention to be so quickly forgotten, and any day may see them
revive again. Just here the possibility of prejudices which would not
profit by experience has been remarkably large, since the question of
currency involves such complicated conceptions that fallacious arguments
are difficult to refute. And such a situation is just the one where the
battle of opinions can be waged the hottest: the silver question has, in
fact, more excited the nation than any other economic problem of the
last ten years. And there can be no doubt that many valid arguments have
been urged on the wrong side, and some untenable theses on the right

The starting-point of the discussion lay in the law of 1873, which, for
the first time in the United States, excluded silver coin from the
official currency. There had already been differences of opinion before
the passage of this law. The friends of silver say that in 1792 the
United States permitted the coinage of both silver and gold without
limit, and that silver was the actual monetary standard. And, although
by accidents of production the relative value of the precious metals,
which had been 15 to 1, later became 16 to 1, nevertheless the two
metals continued to be regarded equally important until the
surreptitious crime of 1873. It was a secret crime, they say, because
the law was debated and published at a time when the nation could have
no clear idea of what it meant. The Civil War had driven gold coin out
of the country, every one was using paper, and no one stopped to ask
whether this paper would be redeemed in gold or silver, and no one was
accustomed to seeing gold coins in circulation. General Grant, who was
President at that time, signed the bill without any suspicion that it
was anything more than a technical measure, much less that it was a
criminal holdup of the nation on the part of the rich. And great was the
disaster; for the law demonetized silver, brought a stringency of gold,
lowered prices tremendously, depressed the condition of the nation, and
brought the farmers to poverty, so it was said.

The opponents of bimetallism recognize no truth in this story. They say
that in the first third of the nineteenth century the silver dollar was
counted equal to the gold dollar, at the ratio of 15 ounces to 1 ounce
of metal; but since this ratio did not continue to correspond with the
market price, and the gold of the country went to Europe, because it
there brought a better value, the official ratio was changed as early as
1834 to 16 to 1. This rate put a small premium on gold, and virtually
established a gold standard for American currency. The owners of silver
mines no longer had silver coined in the country, because they could get
more money for their silver bars abroad; and so, as a matter of fact,
during the next decade only 8 million silver dollars were coined, and
this denomination virtually went out of circulation. Only the fractional
silver currency could be kept in the country, and that only by resorting
to the trick of making the coins proportionately lighter than the legal
weight of the silver dollar.

The currency became, therefore, to all intents and purposes, a gold one,
and nobody was discontented with it, because silver was then less mined.
From 1851 to 1855, for instance, the average silver production of the
United States was only $375,000, while that of gold was $62,000,000.
Then came the lean years of the Rebellion. The government borrowed from
the banks, in the autumn of 1861, $100,000,000 in gold, and in the
following year issued $150,000,000 of unsecured greenbacks. Thereupon
the natural laws of exchange drove all sound currency out of the
country, and $150,000,000 more greenbacks were soon issued. The premium
on gold went higher and higher, and reached its highest point in 1864,
when the price was 185 per cent. of the normal value. After the war
confidence was restored, the paper dollar rose from 43 to 80 cents; but
the quantity of paper in circulation was so tremendous that metallic
money was never seen, and not until the early seventies did conditions
become solid enough for the treasury to take steps to redeem the

But this was just the time when all the civilized nations were adopting
the gold standard—a time in which the production of gold had become
incredibly large. The two decades between 1850 and 1870 had brought five
times as much gold bullion into the world as the preceding two decades,
and the leading financiers of all countries were agreed that it was high
time to make gold the universal standard of exchange. The general
movement was begun in the conference of 1867 held in Paris. Germany led
in adopting the gold standard; the United States followed in 1873. The
gold dollar, which since the middle of the century had been the actual
standard of American currency, became now the official standard, and
silver coinage was discontinued. There was nothing of secrecy or
premeditated injustice, for the debates lasted through several sessions
of Congress.

If, nevertheless, the so-called crime remained unnoticed, and so many
Senators failed to know what they were doing, this was not because the
transactions went on in secret, nor because the use of paper money had
made every one forget the problems of metallic currency, but rather
because no one felt at that time that he would be injured by the new
measure, although the attention of everybody had been called to the
discussions. The owners of silver mines themselves had no interest in
having their mineral made into coin, and no one was disturbed to see
silver go out of circulation. All the trouble and all the hue and cry
about a secret plot did not commence until several years later, when,
for entirely independent reasons, circumstances had considerably
changed. The step had been taken, however, and the principle has not
been repudiated. The unlimited coinage of silver has not been permitted
by the United States since 1873.

Nevertheless, silver was destined soon again to become regular currency.
Hard times followed the year 1873, prices fell and the value of silver
fell with them, and bimetallic coinage had been discontinued.
Bimetallists connected these facts, and said that the price of silver
fell because the commercial world had stopped coining it. For this
reason the only other coined metal, which was gold, became dear, which
meant, of course, that prices became cheap, and that the farmer got a
low price for his harvests. And thus the population was driven into a
sort of panic.

A ready expedient was suggested: it was to coin silver once more, since
that would carry off the surplus and raise the price; while on the other
hand, the increased amount of coin in circulation would bring prices up
and restore the prosperity of the farmers and artisans. This is the main
argument which was first heard in 1876, and was cried abroad with
increasing loudness until twenty years later it was not merely preached,
but shouted by frenzied masses, and still in 1900, misled the Democratic
party. But the desire for an increased medium of circulation is by no
means the same as the demand for silver coinage. After the Civil War the
public had demanded more greenbacks just as clamorously as it now
demanded silver. It was also convinced that nothing but currency was
needed to make high values, no matter what the value of the currency

So far as these main facts are concerned, which have been so unjustly
brought into connection, there can be no doubt that the depreciation of
silver was brought about only in very small part by the coinage laws. To
be sure, the cessation of silver coinage by several large commercial
powers had its effect on the value of silver; but India, China, and
other countries remained ready to absorb large amounts of silver for
coinage; and in fact the consumption of silver increased steadily for a
long time. The real point was that the production of silver increased
tremendously at just the time when the production of gold was falling
off. From 1851 to 1875, $127,000,000 worth of gold on an average was
mined annually, but from 1876 to 1890 the average was only $108,000,000;
while, on the other hand, the average production of silver in those
first twenty-five years was only $51,000,000, but in the following
fifteen years came up to $116,000,000. The output of gold therefore
decreased 15 per cent., while that of silver increased 127 per cent. Of
course, then silver depreciated. Now the future was soon to show that
increased coinage of silver would not raise its price. Above all, it was
an arbitrary misconstruction to ascribe bad times to the lack of
circulating medium. Later times have shown that, under the complicated
credit system of the country, prices do not depend on the amount of
legal tender in circulation in the industrial world. The speed of
circulation is a factor of equal importance with the amount of it; and,
most important of all, is the total credit, which has no relation to the
amount of metallic currency. When more money was coined it remained for
the time being unused, and could not be put in circulation until the
industrial situation recovered from its depression.

Thus the bad times of the seventies were virtually independent of
coinage legislation: but public agitation had set in, and as early as
1878 met with considerable success. In that year the so-called Bland
Bill was passed, over the veto of President Hayes, which required the
treasury of the United States to purchase and coin silver bars to the
value of not less than 2 million, and not more than four million,
dollars every month. This measure satisfied neither the one side nor the
other. The silverites wanted unlimited coinage of silver; for, if a
limit was put, the standard was still gold, even though the price of
silver should be somewhat helped. The other side saw simply that the
currency of the country would be flooded with depreciated metal, and one
which was really an unofficial and illegal circulating medium. It was
known that the silver, after being coined into dollars, would be worth
more than its market value, and it was already predicted that all the
actual gold of the country would be taken abroad and replaced by silver.
The “gold bugs” also saw that this legislation would artificially
stimulate the mining of silver if there should actually be any increase
in its price.

The new law was thus a bad compromise between two parties, although to
many it seemed like a safe middle way between two dangers. Some
recognized in the unlimited coinage of silver the dangers of a
depreciated currency, but believed that the adoption of the gold
standard would be no less dangerous, because gold was too scarce to
satisfy the needs of the commercial world. It was said that free silver
would poison the social organism and free gold would strangle it, and
that limited silver coinage, along with unlimited gold coinage, would
therefore be the only safe thing.

But it soon appeared that such legal provisions would have no effect in
restoring the value of the white metal. Although the government
facilitated in every way the circulation of the new silver coins, they
nevertheless came back to the treasury. No matter how many silver
dollars were distributed as wages, they found their way at once to the
retail shops, then to the banks, and then to Washington. It appeared
that the nation could not keep more than sixty or seventy million
dollars’ worth in circulation, while there were already more than
$400,000,000 lying idle in Washington. The banks boycotted silver at
first; but the more important fact was that the price of silver did not
rise, but kept on falling. It was the amount produced and naturally
consumed, and not the amount coined, which regulated the price of
silver. In the year 1889 the relative values of silver and gold were as
22 to 1; and the true value of the silver dollar coined under the Bland
Bill was only seventy-two cents. Congress now proposed to take a more
serious measure looking toward a higher price for silver.

In July, 1890, a law was passed whereby the treasury was obliged to buy
four and one-half million ounces of silver every month at the market
price, and against this to issue treasury certificates to the
corresponding amount, which should be redeemable either in gold or
silver; since, as that law declared, the United States asserted the
equal status of the two metals. The law did not prescribe the number of
silver certificates which were to be issued, since the weight of silver
to be purchased was fixed and the value of it depended on the market.
Only a few months afterward it became clear that even this energetic
stroke would not much help the price of silver. The silver and gold
dollars would have been really equal to each other if an ounce of silver
had brought a market price of $1.29. In August, 1890, silver came up to
$1.21 an ounce, and fell the next year to $1.00, and in 1892 to $0.85.
But while the price of silver was falling, gold was rapidly leaving the

In April, 1893, the gold reserve of the treasury fell for the first time
below the traditional hundred millions. It was a time of severe economic
depression. The silverites still believed that the rise of silver had
not commenced because its purchase was restricted to monthly
installments, and they clamoured for unlimited purchases of silver. But
the nation opposed this policy energetically. President Cleveland called
an extra session of Congress, and after a bitter fight in the Senate,
the law providing for the purchases of silver and issue of silver
certificates was repealed, in November of 1893. The Democratic party had
split on this measure, and then arose the two divisions, the Gold
Democrats who followed Cleveland, and the Silver Democrats who found a
leader a year later in Bryan, and dictated the policy of the Democratic
party for the following decade.

Looking on American economic history from the early seventies to the
middle nineties without prejudice, one cannot doubt not only that the
entire legislation relative to coinage has had scarcely any influence on
the price of gold and silver—since the price of silver has fallen
steadily in spite of the enormous amounts purchased—but also that the
general industrial situation, the movement of prices, and the volume of
business have been very little affected by these financial measures.

The strongest influence which they have had has been a moral one.
Business became active and foreign commerce revived as soon as the
confidence in the American currency was restored. This result, of
course, contradicted the expectations and wishes of the apostles of
silver. International confidence declined in proportion as a legal
tender standing for a depreciated metal was forced into circulation. It
was not the amount of silver, but the fear of other countries as to what
that amount might become, which most injured American commerce. And the
great achievement of Cleveland’s Administration was to reassure the
world of our solidity.

Otherwise the economic fluctuations depended on events which were very
little related to the actual amount of gold on hand. If, in certain
years, the amount of circulation increased, it was the result rather
than the cause of industrial activity; and when, in other years, a
speculative movement collapsed, less money was used afterward, but the
shortage of money did not cause the collapse. Then, too, harvests were
sometimes good and at other times bad, and foreign commerce changed in
dependence on quite external events in Europe. There were, moreover,
certain technical improvements in agricultural and industrial processes
which rapidly lowered prices and which took effect at independent times
and seasons.

The year 1893 was a time in which a great many factors worked in one
direction. The overbuilding of railways and a too great expansion of
iron industries had been followed by a terrible reaction; a surplus of
commodities on all the markets of the world caused prices to fall, and
the international distrust of silver legislation in the United States
made the situation worse. European capital, on which all undertakings
then depended, was hurriedly withdrawn; thousands of businesses failed,
and small men fell into debt. The actual panic did not last long, and
Cleveland’s successful move of 1893 restored the international
confidence. But the situation of the general public was not so readily
improved. This was the psychological moment in which the silver
question, which had hitherto interested relatively restricted circles,
so suddenly came to excite the entire nation that in 1896 the main issue
of the Presidential campaign was silver or gold currency. The silver
craze spread most rapidly among the farmers, who had suffered more from
overproduction than had the manufacturers. The manufacturer sold his
wares more cheaply, but in greater quantities, because he improved his
methods, and, moreover, he bought his raw materials more cheaply. But
the fall in the prices of wheat and corn and other agricultural products
which affected the farmer was only in small part due to more intensive
cultivation, but rather to the greater area of land which had been
planted. The farmer in one state was not benefited by the fact that
great areas in some other state were now for the first time laid down to
wheat and corn. As prices fell he produced no more, and thus agriculture
suffered more severely than industry. While the farmer was able to get
for two sheaves of wheat only as much as he used to get for one, he
thought, of course, that his patrons had too little money, and was
readily convinced that if more money could only be coined, he would get
good prices again.

There was another argument in addition to this, which could still even
more easily be imposed on the ignorant, and not only on the farmer, but
on all classes that were in debt. Silver was cheaper than gold, and if
debts were paid in it the creditor lost and the debtor won. It was at
this time that the conflict of interests between the great capitalists
and the labouring masses began to arouse political excitement. Distrust
found its way into a good part of the population, and finally a hatred
of capitalists and monopolies, and of the stock market most of all.

This hatred vented itself in a mad clamour for silver. If Congress would
authorize an unlimited silver coinage at the ratio of 16 to 1, while the
market ratio was down to 33 to 1—so that the silver dollar would be
worth hardly fifty cents, and so that the farmer could sell his wheat or
maize for a dollar when it was really worth but half a dollar—then at
last the robbers on the stock exchange would be well come up with. In
reality, these two arguments contradicted each other, for the farmer
would be benefited by more silver money only if the market value of
silver could be brought up to that of gold; while he would be favoured
in the payment of debts only if gold could be brought down to the value
of silver. But once let there be any sort of distress, and any ghost of
relief haunting the general mind, then logic is totally forgotten. A new
faith arises, the power of which lies in suggestion. The call for
free-silver coinage at the old ratio of 16 to 1 fascinated the
agricultural masses as well as the lower classes in cities, just as the
idea of a future state of socialism fascinates German working-men

And just as one cannot understand the German people without taking into
account their socialistic delusions, so one cannot understand the
American masses to-day without tracing out the course of the silver
propaganda. It was the organizing power of a watchword which gave the
delusion such significance, and which, for perhaps the first time, gave
voice to the aversion which the masses felt toward the wealthy classes;
and so, like the socialistic movement in Germany, it took effect in far
wider circles than the points over which the discussion started would
have justified.

But the masses could hardly be stirred up to such a powerful agitation
merely on the basis of the specious arguments spread about by ignorant
fanatics, or even with the substantial support of the indebted farmer.
In the middle nineties the literature of the silver question swelled
enormously. A mere appeal to the passions of those who hated capital
would not have been enough, and even the argument that the amount of
money in a country alone regulates prices could have been refuted once
for all. A financial and an intellectual impetus were both necessary to
the agitation, and both were to be had. Distinguished political
economists saw clearly certain unfairnesses and evils in a simple gold
standard, and urged many an argument for bimetallism which the masses
did not wholly follow, but which provided material for general
discussion. And financial aid for the silver side flowed freely from the
pockets of those who owned silver mines. Of course, there was no doubt
that these mine-owners would be tremendously prospered by any radical
legislation for silver. In the days of the Bland Bill even the poorest
silver mines were in active operation, whereas now everything was quiet.
The discussions which ostensibly urged the right of the poor man against
the rich said nothing at all of the deep schemes of the silver-mine
owners. These men did not urge their claims openly, but they paid their
money and played the game shrewdly.

We have already fully compared the political traits of the two parties;
and it will be understood at once that the contest for silver, as a
movement for the rights of the poor man against those of the capitalist,
would have to be officially waged by the Democratic party, while the
Republican party would, of course, take the other side. The nation
fought out the great battle in two heated Presidential campaigns; and in
1896 as well as in 1900, the contest was decided in favour of the gold
currency. The currency legislation of the Republican Congresses has held
to a conservative course. In March, of 1900, the treasury was
instructed, on demand, to redeem all United States notes in gold, so
that all the money in circulation came to have absolutely the same
value. The old silver certificates, of which to-day $450,000,000 are in
circulation, can at any time be exchanged for gold coin, and the
Secretary of the Treasury was entirely right in showing in his last
annual report that it was this wise provision alone which obviated a
panic at the time when stock market quotations dropped so suddenly in
the year 1903. Thus the finances of the country are definitely on a gold

But, as we have said, we are not interested in the material aspects of
the currency situation, and still less shall we undertake a profound
discussion of bimetallism, as scientific circles are to-day considering
it. The significance of a limited double standard, especially in view of
the commerce with the East, and of the effect it will have in quieting
the international struggle to get the yellow metal, is much discussed by
thoughtful persons. The United States have sent a special commission to
visit other countries in order to persuade them that some international
agreement as to the monetary recognition of silver is desirable.

All this does not interest us. We care for the silver question only as a
social movement. No other problem has so profoundly moved the nation;
even the questions of expansion and imperialism have so far aroused less
general interest. It is only too likely that if hard times return once
more, the old craze will be revived in one form or another. The silver
intoxication is not over to-day, and the western part of the country is
merely for the moment too busy bringing its tremendous crops to harvest,
and carrying its gold back home, to think of anything else.

                         _The Tariff Question_

The silver question, which was of such great significance yesterday, was
very complicated, and only very few who discussed it knew all the
difficulties which it involved. This is not true of the tariff question,
which may at any time become the main political issue. As the problem of
protective tariff is generally discussed, it involves only the simplest

The dispute has come from a conflict of principle and motive, but not
from any difference of opinion as to the effect of protective measures.
Here and there it has been maintained, as it has in other countries,
that the foreigner pays the tariff; and this argument has, indeed,
occasioned keen and complicated discussions. But, for the most part, no
academic questions are involved, rather conditions merely which are
obvious to all, but toward which people feel very differently, according
to their occupation, geographical position, and political convictions.
The struggle is not to be conceived as one between protective tariff and
free trade, but rather as between more or less protective tariff—since,
in spite of variations, the United States have, from the very outset,
enacted a tariff greater than the needs of the public treasury, with the
idea of protecting domestic labour from foreign competition.

Indeed, it can be said that the policy of protection belongs even to the
prehistory of the United States, and that it has contributed measurably
to building up the Union. While America was an English colony, England
took care to suppress American industries; agriculture and trade were to
constitute the business of the colonists. The War for Independence
altered the situation, and native industries began to develop, and they
had made a brave start in many states before the war was ended. But as
soon as the ties with England had been broken, the separate states
manifested diverse interests, and interfered in their trade with one
another by enacting customs regulations. It looked as if a tariff war on
American soil would be the first fruits of freedom from the common
oppressor. There was no central power to represent common interests, to
fix uniform revenues for the general good, and uniform protection for
the industry of the country. And when one state after another was
persuaded to give up its individual rights to the Federation, one of the
main considerations was the annulment of such interstate customs, which
were hindering economic development, and the establishment of a uniform
protection for industry. The tariff law of 1789 contained, first of all,
such provisions as ensured the necessary public revenue, tariff on goods
in whose manufacture the Americans did not compete; and then other
tariffs which were meant to protect American industries.

So, at the outset, the principle of protective tariff was made an
official policy by the United States; and since, through the highly
diversified history of more than eleven decades, the nation has still
held instinctively to this policy, we can hardly doubt that the external
and internal conditions under which the country has stood have been
favourable to such a policy. The tremendous natural resources,
especially of iron, copper, lumber, fur, cotton, wool, and other raw
materials, and the inexhaustible supply of energy in the coal-fields,
oil-wells, and water-falls, have afforded the material conditions
without which an industrial independence would have been impossible. The
optimistic American has found himself in this land of plenty with his
energy, his inventive genius, and his spirit of self-determination. It
was predestined that the nation should not only till the fields, produce
raw materials, and engage in trade, but that it should set stoutly to
work to develop its own industries. Therefore, it seemed natural to pass
laws to help these along, although the non-industrial portions of the
country, and all classes which were not engaged in industry, were for a
time inconvenienced by higher prices.

Once launched, the country drifted further and further in the direction
of protective duties. In 1804 a tariff was enacted on iron and on
glassware, with unquestionably protective intent. It is true that, in
general, the principal increases in the beginning of the century were
planned to accelerate the national income. The War of 1812 especially
caused all tariffs to be doubled. But this war stirred up patriotism and
a general belief in the abilities of the nation. Native industries were
now supported by patriotic enthusiasm, so that in 1816 the duties on
cotton and woollen goods and on manufactured iron were increased for the
sake of protection. And the movement went on. New tariff clauses were
enacted, and new friends won over, often in their own selfish interests,
until the early thirties. The reaction started in the South, which
profited least from the high tariff. Compromises were introduced, and
many of the heaviest duties were taken off. By the early forties, when
the movement lapsed, duties had been reduced by about 20 per cent.

At this time the divided opinions in favour of raising or lowering
duties commenced to play an important part in politics. Protective
tariff and tariff reduction were the watchwords of the two parties. In
1842 the Protectionist party got the reins of government, and at once
put heavy duties on iron, paper, glass, and cotton and woollen goods.
Four years later, tariffs were somewhat reduced, owing to Democratic
influences; but the principle of protection was still asserted, as is
shown by the fact that tea and coffee, which were not grown in the
country, were not taxed, while industrial manufactured articles were
taxed on the average 30 per cent. The Democrats continued to assert
their influence, and won a victory here and there. Wool was admitted
free in 1857. Then came bad times. After a severe commercial crisis,
imports decreased and therewith the customs revenues. The demand for
high tariff then increased, and the Republicans got control of Congress,
and enacted in the year 1861 the Morrill Tariff, which, although
strongly protective, was even more strongly a Republican party measure.
It aimed to discriminate in protecting the industries of those states
which the Republican party desired to win over. Then came the Civil War,
the enormous expense of which required all customs and taxes to be
greatly increased.

The war tariff of 1864 was enacted for the sake of revenue, but its
effect was decidedly protective. And when the war was over, and tariffs
might have been reduced so far as revenue went, industries were so
accustomed to the artificial protection that no one was willing to take
off duties. Some customs, even such as those on woollen and copper, were
considerably increased in the next few years, while those on coffee and
tea were again entirely removed.

In general, it was a time of uncertain fluctuations in the tariff until
the year 1883, when the whole matter was thoroughly revised. In certain
directions, the customs were lowered; in others, increased. Specially
the higher grades of manufactured articles were put under a higher
tariff, while the cheaper articles used by the general public were taxed
more lightly. A short time after this, President Cleveland, as leader of
the Free-Trade Democrats, came out with a famous message against
protection. The unexpected result was, that after the tariff question
had thus once more been brought to the front, the Republicans gained a
complete victory for their side, and enacted a tariff more extreme than
any which had gone before, and which protected not only existing
industries, but also such as it was hoped might spring up. Even sugar
was now put on the free list, because it had been taxed merely for
revenue, and not for protection. While, on the other hand, almost all
manufactured articles which were made in the country were highly
protected. This was specially the case with velvet, silk, woollen, and
metal goods. This was the well-known McKinley Tariff.

The Democrats won the next election, although not on the issue of
industrial legislation, and as soon as they came into power they upset
the high tariffs. Their Wilson Tariff Bill of 1894, the result of long
controversies, showed little internal consistency. Too many compromises
had been found necessary with these or those influential industries in
order to pass the bill at all. Yet, on the whole, customs were
considerably lowered, and for the first time in a long while raw
materials, such as wool, were put on the free list. But Democratic rule
did not last long. McKinley was victorious in 1896, and in the following
year the Dingley Tariff was passed in accordance with Republican ideas
of protection, and it is still in force.

The total revenues derived from this source in the year 1902 were
$251,000,000, and in 1903 were $280,000,000. Let us analyze the first
amount. Its relative importance in the total revenue may be seen from
the fact that the internal duties on liquor, tobacco, etc., amounted to
$271,000,000, and that the postal budget for the year was $121,000,000.
The customs duties of $251,000,000 are officially divided into five
classes. The first is live animals and breadstuffs, with sugar at the
head bringing in $52,000,000. The sugar duty had not existed ten years
before, but the Wilson Tariff of 1894 could not have been enacted if the
beet-sugar Senators from Louisiana had not been tossed a bone. In 1895
the revenue on sugar amounted to $15,000,000, and in 1901 to
$62,000,000. After sugar, in this year of 1903, came fruits and nuts
with 5, vegetables with 3, meat, fish, and rice with only 1 million
dollars each. The second class comprises raw materials. Wool yielded
10.9, skins 2.6, coal 1 million dollars, and every other class still
less. In the third class are the semi-manufactured products, with
chemicals yielding 5.4, tin plate 2.9, wooden-ware 1.8, silk 1.1, and
fur 1 million dollars. The fourth class comprises finished products.
Linen goods yielded 14, woollen goods 13, cotton goods 10, metallic
wares 6, porcelain 5.6, leather goods 3.1, and wooden and paper wares
each 1 million dollars. Articles of luxury make the last class, with
tobacco bringing 18.7, silk goods 16, laces 13, alcoholic drinks 10,
jewelry 2.4, feathers 1.4, and toys 1.3 million dollars. The total
imports for the year were $903,000,000, of which $396,000,000 entered
free of duty; but of these last only 10 per cent. were half or wholly
finished products, 90 per cent. being food or raw materials. The duty
was collected from imports worth $507,000,000, and 64 per cent. came
from manufactured articles. Thus the Dingley Tariff was a complete
victory for protection.

No one now asks to have the duties raised, but the Democratic party is
trying all the time to have them lowered, so that the question is really
whether they shall be lower or remain where they are. Of course, the
Republicans have a capital argument which looks unanswerable—success.
The history of American protection, they say, is the history of American
industrial progress. The years during which native industry has been
protected from foreign competition by means of heavy duties have been
the times of great development, and years of depression, disaster, and
panic have regularly followed whenever free-traders have removed duties.
The tariff has never been higher than under the McKinley and the Dingley
bills, and never has the economic advance been more rapid or forceful.
What is the use, they say, of representing to the working-man that he
could buy a suit so much cheaper if the tax on woollen goods were
removed? For if it were, and free-trade were to be generally adopted, he
would go about without employment, his wife and children would be turned
out into the street, and he would be unable to buy even the cheapest
suit. Whereas to-day, he is well able to pay the price which is asked.
The wealth of fancy with which this sort of argument is constantly
varied, and tricked out with word and phrase suited to every taste, is
almost overpowering. But the alternative between the high wage which can
afford to pay for the expensive suit, and the lower wage which cannot
afford to pay for the cheap suit, becomes still more cogent since the
fanatical protectionist is able to prove that under a high tariff wages
have in fact risen, while the price of the suit has not. Yet the extreme
free-trader can prove, with equal certainty, that under free-trade the
suit would actually be much cheaper, while wages would in the end be
even higher.

It cannot be doubted that a number of industries are to-day very
prosperous which could not have gotten even a foothold except by a
century of protection. And no Democrat denies this. But he doubts
whether the hot-house forcing of such industries has benefited the
country, and he believes that the artificial perpetuation of great
industrial combinations, which have been able, by means of a protective
tariff, to put an artificially high price on the food and other
necessary articles used by the masses, has worked infinitely more harm
than good.

It is undoubtedly true that many industries have not only been
protected, but have actually been created. The tin plate industry is,
perhaps, the best example of this. The United States used to obtain the
tin plates needed in industry from Wales, and at unreasonably high
prices. Twice the Americans tried to introduce the industry at home, but
were at once undersold by the English and “frozen out.” Then the
McKinley Tariff put a duty on tin plate of 70 per cent. ad valorem, and
the American industry was able to make headway. In 1891, 1,036 million
pounds of tin plate were imported, and none was produced at home; two
years later only 628 million pounds were imported, and 100 million
pounds manufactured at home; and ten years later only 117 million pounds
came over the sea, while 894 million pounds were produced in this
country. It has been much the same in the manufacture of watches. The
United States imported all their watches a few years ago. They were then
taxed 10 per cent. for revenue, being accounted articles of luxury, and
could not be profitably made inside the country. But when Congress taxed
them 25 per cent., the industry grew up. It produced at first watches
after European models; but American ingenuity soon came to be extended
to this field, improved machinery for the manufacture of watches was
devised, and now a tremendous industry provides every American
school-boy with a watch which is better and cheaper than the
corresponding European article. Even the silk industry may well be
considered the foster child of protection.

The free-traders reply, that all this may have been very well for a
period of transition from an agricultural to an industrial state; but
that the great change has now been completed, and the burdensome duties
which keep our prices high might perfectly well be dropped, since our
industries are now strong enough to compete with foreign industries.

But just at this point the Republican comes out less optimistically than
before. He says that American industry has indeed developed with
fabulous speed, and that the industrial exports of the country, which
now amount to 30 per cent. of the total, are a great showing, but this
is a symptom which ought not to be overrated. When prices throughout the
rest of the world fell, and England was paralyzed for the moment,
although the domestic demand had not yet reached its height, conditions
combined so favourably, it is true, as to cause the export trade in
American manufactured articles to increase rapidly. But this may not be
permanent. Industry is still not able to fill all the demands of the
home market; on the contrary, at the very time when American iron and
steel industries seemed likely to conquer foreign markets, it was found
that some sudden increase in domestic requirements necessitated large
importations. While the iron and steel exports decreased by $25,000,000
between 1900 and 1903, the imports during the same time increased
$31,000,000, and iron and steel include mostly unfinished products.

Thus even the strongest and most powerful industries greatly need
protection still against foreign competition. It is, Thomas Reed has
said, entirely mistaken to look on protection as a sort of medicine, to
be left off as soon as possible. It is not medicine, but nourishment.
The high tariff has not only nursed infant industries, but it is to feed
them through life. For it is not a happy expedient, but a system which
is justified by its results, and of which the final import is that the
American market is for the American people. Protection is a wall behind
which the American people can carry on their industrial life, and so
arrange it that wages shall be not only absolutely but relatively
greater than wages in Europe.

At a time when everything looked so prosperous as in the last few years
of industrial activity, it is difficult to contest the powerful argument
which the Republicans make in appealing to success. Every one is afraid
that a change in tariff might turn back this tide. And if there have
been reverses in the last few years it has been pointed out that
speculators and corporation magnates have been the chief sufferers, and
they are the ones who, least of all, would wish the tariffs removed.

It has been an unfavourable time, therefore, for the free-traders, and
their really powerful party has been rather faint-hearted in its fight
against the Dingley Tariff. Its satisfaction with the Wilson Tariff was
not unmixed, and although it could truthfully say that the law as
actually passed was not a Democratic measure since it received six
hundred and forty amendments in the Senate, nevertheless it realizes
that the legislative measures of the last Democratic régime pleased
nobody thoroughly and contributed a good deal to the subsequent
Republican victory.

Nevertheless, the Democrats feel that the Republican arguments are
fallacious. It is not the protective tariff, they say, which has brought
about American prosperity, but the natural wealth of the country,
together with the energy and intelligence of its inhabitants. The high
level of education, the free government, the pioneer ardour of the
people, and the blessings of quick and rapid railway connections have
made America great and prosperous. If, indeed, any legal expedients have
been decisive in producing this happy result, these have been the
free-trade measures, since the Republicans quite overlook the fact that
the main factor making for our success has been the absolute free-trade
prevailing between the forty-five states. What would have become of
American industries if the states had enacted tariffs against one
another, as the country does against the rest of the world, and as the
countries of Europe do against one another? The entire freedom of trade
from Maine to California, and from Canada to Mexico, that is, the total
absence of all legislative hindrances and the possibility of free
exchange of natural products and manufactures without payment of duties,
has made American industry what it is; and it is the same idea which the
Democrats cherish for the whole world. They desire to get for America
the advantages from free-trade which England has derived.

All the well-known free-trade arguments—moral, political, and
economic—are then urged; and it is shown, again and again, that every
nation will succeed best in the long run by carrying on only such
industries as it is able to in free competition with the world. It is
true, admittedly, that if our tariff were removed a number of
manufactures would have to be discontinued, and that the labourers would
for a time be without work, as happens whenever a new machine is
discovered, or whenever means of transportation are facilitated. The
immediate effect is to take labour from the workman. But in a short time
adaptation takes place, and in the end the new conditions automatically
provide a much greater number of workmen with profitable employment than
before. America would lose a part of the home market if she adopted
free-trade, but would be able to open as many more doors to foreign
countries as recompense. Her total production would in the end be
greater, and all articles of consumption would be cheaper, so that the
workmen could buy the same wares with a less amount of labour, and the
adjustment of the American scale of wages would better enable the
Americans to compete with the labour of other countries.

But no doubt the times do not favour such logic. The Americans are too
ready to believe the statement of Harrison, that the man who buys a
cheaper coat is the cheaper man. And quite too easily the protectionists
reply to all arguments against excluding foreign goods with the opposite
showing that, in spite of the high tariff, the imports from abroad are
steadily increasing. Under the Dingley Tariff, in the year 1903, not
only the raw materials, but also the half and wholly manufactured
articles, and articles of luxury, imported increased to a degree which
had never been reached in the years of the Wilson Tariff. The raw
materials imported under a Democratic tariff reached their high point in
1897, with $207,000,000; when the Dingley Tariff was adopted the figure
decreased to $188,000,000, but then rose rapidly and amounted in 1902 to
$328,000,000, and in 1903 to $383,000,000. Finished products declined at
first from $165,000,000 to $94,000,000, but increased in 1903 to
$169,000,000. Articles of luxury sank from $92,000,000 to $74,000,000,
but then mounted steadily until in the year 1903 they were at the
unprecedented figure of $145,000,000.

In spite of this, the Democratic outlook is improving; not because
people incline to free-trade, but because they feel that the tariff must
be revised, that certain duties must be decreased, and others, so far as
reciprocity can be arranged with other countries, abolished. Everybody
sees that the international trade balance of last year shows a movement
which cannot keep on. America cannot, in the long run, sell where she
does not buy. She will not find it profitable to become the creditor of
other nations, and will feel it to be a wiser policy to close commercial
treaties with other nations to the advantage of both sides. Reciprocity
is not a theory of the Democratic party merely, but is the sub-conscious
wish of the entire nation, as may be concluded from the fact that
McKinley’s last great speech voiced this new desire.

He had, more than any one else, a fine scent for coming political
tendencies; and his greatness always consisted in voicing to-day what
the people would be coming to want by to-morrow. On the fifth of
September, 1901, at the Buffalo Exposition, he made a memorable speech,
in which he said: “We must not repose in fancied security that we can
forever sell everything and buy little or nothing. If such a thing were
possible, it would not be best for us or for those with whom we deal. We
should take from our customers such of their products as we can use
without harm to our industries and labour. Reciprocity is the natural
outgrowth of our wonderful industrial development under the domestic
policy now firmly established. What we produce beyond our domestic
consumption must have a vent abroad. The excess must be relieved through
a foreign outlet, and we should sell anywhere we can and buy wherever
the buying will enlarge our sales and productions, and thereby make a
greater demand for home labour. The period of exclusiveness is past. The
expansion of our trade and commerce is the pressing problem. Commercial
wars are unprofitable. A policy of good will and friendly trade
relations will prevent reprisals. Reciprocity treaties are in harmony
with the spirit of the times. Measures of retaliation are not.

“If perchance some of our tariffs are no longer needed for revenue or to
encourage and protect our industries at home, why should they not be
employed to extend and promote our markets abroad?”

This was the same McKinley whose name had been the apprehension of
Europe, and who in fact more than any one else was morally responsible
for the high-tariff movement in the United States. The unique position
which his service of protection had won him in the party, would perhaps
have enabled this one man to lead the Republican party down from its
high tariff to reciprocity. But McKinley has unhappily passed away, and
no one is here to take his place.

His successor has not had, in the first place, a great interest in
questions of commerce. He has necessarily lacked, moreover, such strong
authority within his party as would enable him to bring opposing
interests into line on such a new policy. The young President was too
much suspected of looking askance on great industrial companies. If he
had placed himself at the head of the Republicans who were hoping to
reduce the tariff, he would have been branded as a free-trader, and
would not have been credited with that really warm feeling for protected
American industries which in the case of McKinley was taken as a matter
of course. More than that, the opponents deterred him, and would have
deterred any one else who might have come in McKinley’s footsteps, or
perhaps even McKinley himself, with the ghost of bad times which are to
come whenever a certain feeling of insecurity is spreading through the
commercial world.

Everybody felt that, if the question of tariff should be opened up,
unforeseen disputes might ensue. On questions of tariff every industry
wields a lever in its own favour, and the Wilson Tariff had sufficiently
shown how long and how tragi-comic can be the course from the law
proposed to the law accomplished. It was felt everywhere that if the
country should be brought into unrest by the fact that no industry could
know for some years what its future was to be or where Congress might
chance to take off protection, that all industry would be greatly
injured. There could be no new undertakings for years, and whatever the
ultimate result might be, the mere feeling of uncertainty would make a
crisis sufficient to turn the tide of prosperity. And American
reciprocity was after all only a matter of philanthropy; for the
experience with Canada and Hawaii, it was said, only showed that
reciprocity meant benevolence on the part of America.

If America is to be philanthropical, there is enough to do in other
ways; but if America is to preserve her commercial interests and her
prosperous industries, it is absolutely necessary not to stir up trouble
and push the country once more into tariff disturbances and expose
industry to doubts and misgivings. And this ghost has made its
impression. McKinley’s words have aroused only a faint echo in the
party. The need, however, which he instinctively felt remains, and
public opinion knows it. It is only a question as to when public opinion
will be stronger than party opinion.

There is another thing which gives the anti-protectionists a better
chance. Democrats say that high tariff has favoured the trusts. This may
be true or false, and statistics speak for both views. But here is a
watchword for the party which makes a deep impression, for the trusts
are popularly hated. This, too, may be right or wrong, and may be still
more easily argued for both sides, but the fact remains, and the
seductive idea that abolishing high tariff will deal a fatal blow to the
hated, extortionate, and tyrannical trusts gets more hold on the masses
day by day. In vain the protectionists say that there is not a real
monopoly in the whole country; that every instance of extortionate price
calls out competition at once, and injures the trust which charges such
price; that protection benefits the small and poor companies as much as
the large, and that an attempt to injure the large companies by
free-trade enactments would kill all small companies on the instant.
And, besides, politics ought not to be run in the spirit of hatred. But
the embitterment exists, and arguments avail little. It is incontestable
that, of all the motives which are to-day felt to work against
protection, the one most effective with the masses is their hatred of
the trusts. Herewith we are led from the tariff question to this other
problem—the trusts.

                          _The Trust Question_

“_Von der Parteien Hass und Gunst verwirrt_”—to be hated and to be
favoured by the parties is the fate of the trusts. But the odd thing is
that they are not hated by one party and favoured by the other; but both
parties alike openly profess their hatred and yet show their favour by
refraining after all from any action. And this inconsistency is not due
to any intentional deception.

To be sure, a good deal of it is political policy. The evils and dangers
of many trust formations are so obvious that no party would like to
praise them openly, and no party will dispense with the cheap and easy
notoriety of declaring itself for open competition and against all
monopolies. On the other hand, the power of the trusts is so great that
neither party dares to break with them, and each has its special
favourites, which could not be offended without prejudicing its campaign
funds. Nevertheless, the deeper reason does not lie in the matter of
expediency, but rather in the fact that no relief has been proposed
which promises to be satisfactory. Some want to treat the evil
superficially, as a quack doctor tries to allay secondary symptoms; and
others want, as President Roosevelt has said, to end the disease by
killing the patient. The fact that this inventive nation has still not
solved its great economic problem, is probably because the trusts have
grown necessarily from the organic conditions of American life, and
would continue to exist in spite of all legislative hindrances which
might be proposed against them.

When Queen Elizabeth, in violation of the spirit of Anglo-Saxon law,
distributed in the course of a year nearly fifty industrial monopolies,
and caused the price of some commodities to be doubled, the House of
Commons protested in 1601, and the Queen solemnly declared that she
would revoke all privileges which endangered industrial freedom; and
from that time on, monopolies were done away with. The American people
are their own sovereign, and the effect of monopolies is now about the
same as it was in England three hundred years ago. But the New World
sovereign cannot issue a proclamation revoking the monopolies which it
has granted, or at least it knows that the monopolies, if taken from
one, would be snatched by another. It is true that the present form of
trusts could be made illegal for the future, but some other form would
appear, to compass the same ends; and if certain economic departments
should be liberated by a free-trade legislation, the same forces would
gather at other points. We must consider the essence of the matter
rather than its outward form.

The essence is certainly not, as the opponents of trusts like to
represent, that a few persons are enriched at the expense of many;
that the masses are plundered to heap up wealth for a small clique.
The essence of the movement does not lie in the distribution of
wealth, but in the distribution of power. The significance of the
movement is that in recent times the control of economic agencies has
had to become more strongly concentrated. It is a mere attendant
circumstance that in the formation of the trusts large financiers have
pocketed disproportionately large profits, and that the leading trust
magnates are the richest men of the country. The significance of their
position lies in the confidence which is put in them. But the actual
economic endeavour has been for the organized control of larger and
larger undertakings. It has been very natural for the necessary
consolidation of smaller parts into new and larger units to be
accomplished by men who are themselves rich enough to retain a
controlling share in the whole business; but this is a secondary
factor, and the same result could have been had if mere agents had
been appointed by the owners to all the great positions of confidence.

Almost the same movement has gone on in other economic spheres than the
industrial. Railroad companies are all the time being consolidated into
large companies, controlled by fewer and fewer men, until finally a very
few, like Morgan, Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Harriman, Gould, Hill, and
Cassatt, virtually control the whole railroad system. But this economic
movement in the railroad world would not really stop if the state were
to take over all the railroads, and a single badly paid secretary of
railroads should be substituted for the group of millionaires. The main
point is that the savings of the whole country are invested in these
undertakings, and are looking for the largest possible returns, and get
these only when leadership and control are strongly centralized.

The very obvious opulence of the leaders naturally excites popular
criticism, but it has been often shown that the wealth of these rich
people has not increased relatively to the average prosperity of other
classes, and the corporations themselves make it possible to distribute
the profits saved by concentration throughout the population. The famous
United States Steel Company had last year 69,000 stockholders, and the
shares of American railroads are owned by more than a million people.
For instance, the Pennsylvania Railroad alone has 34,000 stock and bond
holders, who intrust the control to a very few capitalists. In fact, the
whole railway system belonging to a million people is controlled by
about a dozen men; and the Steel Company with its 69,000 owners is
managed by twenty-four directors, who in turn are guided by the two
presidents of the administration and finance committees. The chief point
is thus not the concentration of ownership, but the concentration of

This same movement toward concentration has taken place in the banking
business; and here the point is certainly, not that one man or a few men
own a main share in the banks, but only that a few men are put in charge
of a group of financial institutions for the sake of organized
management. In this way the public is more uniformly and systematically
served, and the banks are more secure, by reason of their mutual

Among the directors of the Bank of Commerce there are, for instance,
directors of two life-insurance companies which have a capital of
$750,000,000, and of eight trust companies; and the directors of these
trust companies are at the same time directors of other banks, so that
they all make a complete chain of financial institutions. And they stand
more or less under the influence of Morgan. There is, likewise, another
system of banks, of which the chief is the National City Bank, which is
dominated by Rockefeller; and these personal connections between banks
are continued to the industrial enterprises, and then on to the railroad
companies. For instance, the Rockefeller influence dominates not only
banks and trust companies whose capital is more than $400,000,000, the
famous Standard Oil Company with a capital of $100,000,000, the
Lackawanna Steel Company worth $60,000,000, and the gas companies of New
York worth $147,000,000, but also the St. Paul Railroad, which is
capitalized at $230,000,000, the Missouri, Kansas and Texas at
$148,000,000, and the Missouri Pacific at $212,000,000.

It is certainly true that such tremendous influence under present
conditions can be gotten only by men who actually own a huge capital.
And yet the essential economic feature is always the consolidation of
control, which is found necessary in every province of industry, and
which entirely overtops the question of ownership. It has been estimated
that the twenty-four directors of the United States Steel Company exert
a controlling influence in two hundred other corporations; that back of
them are the largest banks in the whole country, about half the
railroads, the largest coal, oil, and electric companies, and the
leading telegraph, express, and life-insurance companies, etc. They
control corporations with a capital of nine billions of dollars: and
such consolidation is not to be undone by any artificial devices of

If economic life, by reason of the dimensions which it has assumed in
the last decades, requires this welding together of interests in every
department, then the formation of syndicates and trusts is only a phase
in the necessary development; and to prevent the formation of trusts
would affect the form, and not the essence of the movement. Indeed, the
form has already changed a number of times. The earliest trusts were so
organized that a number of stock companies united as such and intrusted
their business to a new company, which was the “trust.” That system was
successfully abolished; the trust itself seemed unassailable, but the
state could revoke the charters of the subsidiary companies, because by
the law of most states these latter might continue only so long as they
carried on the functions named in their charters; that is, so long as
they carried on the transaction of their affairs themselves. A stock
company has not the right, possessed by an individual, to intrust its
property to another. And if the stock companies which came together into
a trust were dissolved, the trust did not exist. In this way the State
of New York proceeded against the Sugar Trust, Ohio against the Standard
Oil Company, and Illinois against the Chicago Gas Company.

But the course of events has shown that nothing was gained by this.
Although it was recognized that corporations could not legally combine
to form a trust, nevertheless the stockholders controlling the stock of
separate companies could join as individuals and contribute their
personal holdings to a new company which was virtually a trust; and in
this form the trusts which had been demolished were at once reorganized.
Moreover, of course any number of stock companies can simply dissolve
and merge into one large company, or they may keep their individuality
but make important trade agreements with one another, and so indirectly
fulfil the purposes of a trust. In short, the ways of bringing assenting
industrial enterprises under one management and so of virtually making a
given industry into a monopoly, are manifold.

To promote the development of trusts, there was nothing necessary but
success at the outset. If the first trusts were successful, the device
would be imitated so long as there was any prospect of profit. It really
happened that this imitation went on finally as a sort of mania, where
no special saving of profits could be predicted; one trust followed
another, and the year 1903 saw 233 purely industrial trusts
incorporated, of which 31 had a capital of over $50,000,000 each, and of
which the total capitalization was over nine billions.

At first sight it might look as if this movement would be really
sympathetic to the American people in general. The love of size
generated in the nation by the lavishness of nature must welcome this
consolidation of interest, and the strong spirit of self-initiative
claiming the right of individuals to unite and work together must surely
favour all sorts of co-operation. As a fact now an opposite tendency
operates, which after all springs from the same spirit of
self-initiative. The freely acting individual must not be prevented by a
stronger force from using the strength he has. Everything which excludes
free competition and makes the individual economically helpless seems
immoral to the American. That is old Anglo-Saxon law.

The common law of England has at all times condemned agreements which
tend toward monopoly, and this view dominates the American mind with a
force quite surprising to the European who has become accustomed at
least to monopolies owned by the state. The laws of almost all the
separate states declare agreements tending toward a monopoly to be
illegal; and federal legislation, in its anti-trust measures of 1887 and
1890, has seconded this idea without doing more than formulating the
national idea of justice. The law of the country forbids, for instance,
all agreements looking to the restriction of trade between different
states of the country or with foreign nations. Senator Foraker, in
February, 1904, called down public displeasure by proposing a law which
permitted such agreements restricting commerce so long as the
restriction was reasonable. It was feared at once that the courts would
think themselves justified in excusing every sort of restraint and
monopolistic hindrance. And yet there is no doubt that the
interpretation of what should constitute “restriction” to commerce was
quite as arbitrary a matter as the interpretation of what should be
“reasonable.” Indeed, the economic consolidation of competing
organizations by no means necessarily cuts off the beneficent effects of
competition. When, for instance, the Northern Securities Company united
several parallel railway lines, it asserted justly that the several
roads under their separate corps of officials would still compete for
public favour. Yet the public and the court objected to the
consolidation. The one real hindrance to the propagation of trusts lies
in this general dread of every artificial check to free competition.

Many circumstances which have favoured the formation of trusts are
obvious. In the first place, the trust can carry on business more
cheaply than the component companies individually. The general
administration is simplified by doing away with parallel positions, and
all expenses incident to business competition are saved. Then, too, it
can make larger profits since when competition stops, the fixing of
prices lies quite with itself. This is of course not true, in so far as
other countries are able to compete; but here comes in the function of
the protective tariff, which permits the trust to raise its prices until
they equal those of foreign markets plus the tariff.

The good times which America has enjoyed for some years have also
favoured the development of trusts. When the harvests are good and the
factories all busy, high prices are readily paid. The trusts can do even
better than single companies by shutting down unprofitable plants and
adapting the various remaining plants for mutual co-operation. Then,
too, their great resources enable them to procure the best business
intelligence. In addition to all this came a series of favourable
external circumstances. First was the rapid growth of American capital
which was seeking investment. In the seventies, the best railroad
companies had to pay a rate of 7 per cent. in order to attract
investors; now they pay 3½ per cent. Capital lies idle in great
quantities and accumulates faster than it can find investment. This has
necessarily put a premium on the organization of new trusts. Then, too,
there was the well-known uniformity of the market, so characteristic of
America. The desire to imitate on the one side, and patience and good
nature on the other, give to this tremendous region of consumption
extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean a uniformity of demand
which greatly favours manufacture on a gigantic scale. This is in sharp
contrast with the diversity of requirements in Europe.

It has been, doubtless, also important that the American feels
relatively little attached to his special business. Just as he loves his
Fatherland really as a conception, as an ideal system, but feels less
bound to the special piece of soil where he was born and will leave his
own farm if he is a farmer and go westward in search of better land, so
the American passionately loves business as a method, without being over
attached to his own particular firm. If the opening is favourable, he
gives up his business readily to embark on another, just as he gives up
an old-fashioned machine in favour of an improved one.

Just this quality of mind is so different from the German that here
would be probably the greatest hindrance to the organization of trusts
in Germany. The German feels himself to have grown up in his special
business, which he may have inherited from his father, just as the
peasant has grown up on his farm, and he does not care to become the
mere employee of a large trust. Another contributory mental trait has
been the friendly confidence which the American business man puts in his
neighbour. The name is here appropriate; the trusts in fact repose to a
high degree on mutual trust, and trusts like the American could not
develop wherever there should be mutual distrust or jealousy in the
business world. Finally, the laws themselves have been favourable, in so
far as they have favoured the issue of preferred stock in a way very
convenient to trusts, but one which would not have been approved in
Europe. And, moreover, the trusts have made considerable use of the
diversity existing between the laws of different states.

There have been retarding factors, too. We have mentioned the most
important of all—the legal discountenance of all business agreements
tending to create a monopoly or to restrain trade. There have been
others, however. One purpose of the trusts is to put prices up and so to
make the necessities of life dearer. It is the people who pay the
prices—the same people who elect Congress and determine the tariffs and
the laws; so that every trust works in the knowledge that putting up
prices tends immediately to work back on business by calling forth
tariff revision and anti-trust laws.

One source of great profit to the trusts has been the possibility of
restricting output. This method promised gain where natural products
were in question, such as oil, tobacco, and sugar, of which the quantity
is limited, and further for all technical patents. Where, however, there
is no such limitation the most powerful corporation will not be able to
avoid competition, and if it tries to buy up competing factories to stop
such competition, still more are built at once, solely with the purpose
of extorting a high ransom from the trusts; and this game is ruinous. In
other departments again consolidation of business means very little
economy; Morgan’s marine trust is said not to have succeeded for this
reason. In short, not all industries are susceptible of being organized
as trusts, and the dazzling profits of certain favoured trusts too
easily misled those who were in pursuit of fortune into forgetting the
difference between different businesses. Trusts were formed where they
could not be profitable. Perhaps the real founders themselves did not
overlook the difference; but they counted on the great hungry public to
overlook it, until at least most of the shares should have been disposed

As a fact, however, the reluctance of the great investing public has
been a decidedly restraining factor too. The securities spoiled before
the public had absorbed them; everywhere the complaint went up of
undigested securities. The public came early to suspect that the
promoters were making their profits not out of the legitimate economies
to be saved by the trusts, but by enormously overcapitalizing them and
taking large blocks of stock for themselves.

There was still another unfavourable influence on public opinion. The
main profits of a protected trust lie in its being able to sell more
dearly than it could if exposed to foreign competition. But now if the
consolidated industry itself proposes to sell to other countries, it
must of course step down to the prevailing level of prices. It must
therefore sell more cheaply abroad than at home. But this is soon found
out, and creates a very unfavourable impression. The American is willing
to pay high prices, as far as that goes; but when he has to pay a price
double what the same factory charges for the same goods when delivered
in Europe, he finds the thing wholly unnatural, and will protest at the
next election. Thus there have been plenty of factors to counteract the
favourable conditions, and the history of trusts has certainly not been
for their promoters a simple tale of easy profits.

Now, if we do not ask what has favoured or hindered the trusts, nor how
they have benefited or jeopardized their founders, but rather look about
to see what their effect on the nation has been and will be, some good
features appear at once. However much money may have been lost, or
rather, however fictitious values may have been wiped out in the market,
the great enterprises are after all increasing the productive capacity
of the nation and its industrial strength in the fight with other
peoples. They give a broad scope to business, and bring about relations
and mutual adaptations which would never have developed in the chaotic
struggling of small concerns. They produce at the same time by the
concentration of control an inner solidarity which allows one part to
function for another in case there are hindrances or disasters to any
part of the great organism, and this is undoubtedly a tremendous factor
for the general good. A mischance which, under former conditions, would
have been disastrous can be survived now under this system of mutual
interdependence: thus it can hardly be doubted that the combined action
of the banks in the year 1903 prevented a panic; since, when stocks
began to fall, the banks were able to co-operate as they would not have
been able previously to their close affiliation.

Furthermore, economic wealth can now be created more advantageously for
the nation. The saving of funds which were formerly spent in direct
competition is a true economy, and the trusts have asserted again and
again that as a matter of fact they do not put up prices, but that they
make sufficient profits in saving what had formerly been wasted in
business hostilities. Certainly the trusts make it possible to isolate
useless or superannuated plants, without causing a heavy loss to the
owners, and thus the national industry is even more freely adaptable to
changing circumstances than before; and this advantage accrues to the
entire country. The spirit of enterprise is remarkably encouraged and
the highest premiums are put on individual achievement. Almost all the
men who hold responsible positions in the mammoth works of the Steel
Trust have worked up, like Carnegie himself, from the bottom of the
ladder, and made their millions simply by working better than their

On the other hand, the trusts have their drawbacks. One of the most
regrettable to the American mind is their moral effect. The American
distrusts such extreme concentration of power and capital; it looks
toward aristocracy, oligarchy, and tyranny. At the same time the masses
are demoralized, and in very many cases individual initiative is
strangled. There are, as it were, nothing but officials obeying orders;
no men acting wholly on their own responsibility. Work ceases to be a
pleasure, because everything goes by clock-work; the trust supersedes
the independent merchant and manufacturer just as the machine has
superseded the independent artisan.

The trusts have other demoralizing effects. Their resources are so
tremendous as in the end to do away with all opposition. The independent
man who hopes to oppose the great rival, can too easily be put in a
position in which he is made to choose between beggary and the
repudiation of all his principles. Everybody knows the shameless history
of the Standard Oil Company, which has strangled not merely weak
proprietors, but, much more, has strangled strong consciences. Then,
too, the whole system of over-capitalization is immoral. Large trusts
can hardly be formed except by purchasing the subsidiary companies at
fancy prices, and issuing stock which in large part represents the
premium paid to the promoters. Indeed, this whole system of community of
interests which puts thousands of corporations into the hands of a few
men who everywhere play into one another’s hands, must bring it about
that these men will soon grow careless and overlook one another’s
irregularities in a way which will threaten sober business traditions.
The whole country was shocked on hearing the revelations of the
Shipbuilding Trust, and seeing with what criminal carelessness the
organization went on in a little group of friends, and how the methods
of poker-playing were applied to transactions of great moment. The
fundamental objection, however, is always that it is immoral to kill
competition by agreements which create a monopoly.

Now, what can be done to obviate these evils? Apparently the first thing
would be a revision of the tariff; and yet even their opponents must
agree that there is only an indirect relation between the protective
tariff and the trusts. It is true that the high tariffs have helped to
create those industries which have now come together in trusts, and if
the industries were to be wiped out, of course there would be nothing
left of consolidations. But it is surely not true that the trusts are
the immediate effect of the tariff, and the more a revised tariff were
to let in foreign competition so much the more would the national
industries need to form themselves into trusts for the sake of the
benefits of consolidated management. All the business advantages and all
the moral evils of trusts would still remain, even though the dividends
were to sink. And the trusts would not be carried off the field unless
American industry itself should utterly succumb to the foreign enemy.

Most of all, however, it seems clear that any policy prejudicial to the
conditions of production and distribution would first of all, and most
sadly, hit the competitors of the trusts. There is no absolute monopoly
in any American industry. Indeed, even the Sugar Refining Company has a
few outside competitors, and there is a legion of independent producers
outside of the Steel Trust who are themselves in part organized in
groups, and in many industries the trusts do not comprise even half of
the manufacturers. Now, if the high tariff wall should be torn down so
that a flood of cheap foreign manufactures could come in, it is certain
that the first sufferers would be the small independent companies, which
would be drowned out, while the mighty trusts would swim for a long
time. Indeed, the destruction of such home competition would greatly
benefit the trusts. Some of the strongest of these would hardly be
reached at all by a reduction of the tariff—as, for instance, the
strongest of them, the Petroleum Trust, which does not enjoy any
protection. And it is also to be asked if trusts do not prosper in
free-trade England? So soon as the water is squeezed out of their
stocks, as has in good part lately happened, the trusts would still have
a great advantage after protective duties should be abolished. And at
the same time the necessary depression of wages which would result from
that movement would endanger the whole industrial fabric. Moreover, the
social and moral evils of the trusts would persist. Therefore the
Republican party, which is just now in power, will take no part in
solving the trust question by reducing the tariff.

Those Republicans who oppose the trusts are much more inclined to
proceed to federal legislation. President Roosevelt has, in a number of
speeches which are among the most significant contributions to the whole
discussion, pointed to this way again and again. The situation is
complicated and has shifted from time to time. The real difficulty lies
in the double system of legislative power which we have already
explicitly described. We have seen that all legislative power which is
not expressly conferred on the Union belongs to the several states;
specially has each state the right to regulate the commercial companies
to which it has given charters. But if the company is such a one as
operates between several states—as, for instance, one which transports
goods from one state to another—it is regulated by federal law. Now, as
long ago as the year 1890, in the so-called Sherman Act, Congress passed
draconic regulations against interstate trusts. The law threatens with
fine and imprisonment any party to a contract which restricts interstate
commerce. It can be said of this law that it entirely did away with the
trusts in their original form, in which the various companies themselves
composed the trust. At the same time the federal officials were strongly
seconded by the judicial doings of the separate states, as we have
already seen. But the effect has only been to drive industry into new
forms, and forms which are not amenable to federal regulations, but fall
under the jurisdiction of the separate states. Corporations were formed
which have their home in a certain state, but which by the tremendous
capital of their members have been able to acquire factories distributed
all through the country. Indeed, they are not real trusts any more, and
the name is kept up only because the new corporations have descended
from trusts and accomplish the same purpose.

Of course, this change would have been of no advantage for the several
companies if the stern spirit shown by Congress in this legislation had
been manifested once more by the separate states, that is, if each
separate state had forbidden what the Union had forbidden; but so long
as a single state in the whole forty-five permitted greater freedom to
business than the others, of course all new companies would be careful
to seek out that state and settle there. And, what was more important,
would there pay taxes—a fact which tended to persuade every state to
enact convenient trust laws.

Now, it is not a question between one state and forty-four others, but
rather between the diversities of all the forty-five. Almost every state
has its peculiar provisions, and if its laws are favourable to the
trusts this is because, as each state says, if it were to stand on high
moral grounds it would only hurt itself by driving away profitable
trusts, and would not benefit the whole country, because the trusts
would simply fly away and roost in some other state. More especially the
industrially backward Western States would be always ready to entertain
the trusts and pass most hospitable laws, for the sake of the revenue
which they could thereby get for their local purposes. And so it is
quite hopeless to expect the trusts to be uprooted by the legislation of
the separate states. If all forty-five states were to pass laws such as
govern stock companies in Massachusetts, there would be no need of
further legislation; and it is also no accident, of course, that there
are very few trusts in the State of New York. All the great trusts whose
directors reside in the metropolis have their official home across the
river in the State of New Jersey, which has made great concessions to
the companies.

If these companies are to be reached by law, the surest way seems to be
by taking a radical step and removing the supervision of large stock
companies from the single states, and transferring it to the federal
government; this is the way which President Roosevelt has repeatedly
recommended. In our political section we have explicitly shown that such
a change cannot be introduced by an act of Congress, but only by an
amendment to the Constitution, which cannot be made by Congress, since
it is in itself a product of the Constitution. Congress would be able
only to take the initiative, and two-thirds of both houses would have to
support the proposition to change the Constitution; and this change
would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures
themselves. Now, it would be difficult to get a two-thirds majority in
both houses on any question hostile to trusts; but it is quite out of
the question to induce the three-fourths of the states to cripple their
own rights in so important a matter as the regulation of stock
companies; particularly as in economic matters local power is necessary
to local optimism, and the weaker states would never consent to give up
such rights, since they would be forced to see industrial laws framed
according to the requirements of the more highly developed states. Was
the President, then, in his speeches, like Don Quixote, tilting against
the windmills; or was he proposing, as some of his opponents said, quite
impracticable solutions in order to divert attention from such a handy
solution as that of tariff reduction? And was he declaiming loudly
against the trusts before the public in order really to help on the
friends of capital?

Perhaps another point of view may be found. It may be that President
Roosevelt proposed a constitutional amendment in order to arouse
discussion along certain lines, and in order specially to have the
chance of demonstrating that federal control of those overgrown business
enterprises is necessary, and that their control by the several states
is dangerous. It looks indeed as if such discussion would have been
highly superfluous if not insincere, if it were true that the sole way
of helping the situation were the quite impossible constitutional

But such is not the case; there is another way of reaching the same end
without meeting the difficulties involved in changing the Constitution.
Of course, the President was not free to discuss this means, nor even to
mention it. This way is, we think, for the Supreme Court to reverse its
former decision, and to modify its definition of interstate commerce in
closer accord with the latest developments of the trusts. We have seen
that there are drastic laws relating to interstate commerce which have
overthrown all the earlier trusts; but a corporation claiming home in
New Jersey, although owning factories in different states and dependent
on the co-operation of several states for its output, is to-day treated
by the Supreme Court as a corporation pertaining to one state. If, now,
the Supreme Court were to decide that such a corporation transacts
interstate commerce, then all the severity of the existing federal laws
would apply to such corporations, and everything which could be
accomplished by an amendment to the Constitution would be effected by
that one decision. Of course, the President could not suggest this,
since the Supreme Court is co-ordinate with the Executive; yet if public
attention should be awakened by such a discussion, even the judges of
the Supreme Court might consider the matter in a new light.

To be sure, this would at the same time require the Supreme Court
somewhat to modify its previous interpretation of the Anti-Trust Law
itself, and not merely its application; since otherwise, if the trusts
come under federal jurisdiction, the law might wipe out the new trusts,
as it did the old, instead merely of regulating them. In view of the
recently published memoirs of Senator Hoar, there can be no doubt that
the Supreme Court has interpreted the law forbidding the restraint of
trade more strictly than was originally intended in the bill which Hoar
himself drew up. Congress meant to refer to agreements in restraint of
trade in a narrow, technical sense, while the court has interpreted this
law as if it were to apply to every agreement which merely regulates
production or sale in any place. But this unnecessarily severe
construction of the law by the unexpected verdict of the court can of
course be set aside by a further Congressional measure, and therefore
offers no difficulty.

The Administration might proceed in still another way. A good deal has
been said of greater publicity in public affairs, and in the last few
years energetic measures have already been taken at the instance of the
President. Many of the evils of trusts lie in their concealment of the
conditions under which they have been organized; and the new Department
of Commerce is empowered to take official testimony concerning all such
matters, and to demand this under oath. Whether this will be an ultimate
gain is doubted by many, since those acquainted with the matter say that
the secrets of modern book-keeping make it impossible to inspect the
general condition of a large industrial concern when its promoters
desire to conceal the truth. While if one were to go back of the books
and lay bare every individual fact to the public eye, the corporations
would be considerably injured in their legitimate business. And in any
case, this new effort at publicity has so far no judicial sanction. One
large trust has already refused to give the information desired because
its counsel holds the Congressional law to be unconstitutional, and this
matter will have to be settled by the Supreme Court.

The most thoughtful minds are coming slowly to the opinion that neither
tariff provisions nor legislation is necessary, but that the matter will
eventually regulate itself. The great collapse of market values has
opened the eyes of many people, and the fall in the price of commodities
manufactured by trusts works in much the same direction. People see,
more and more, that most of the evils are merely such troubles as all
infant organisms pass through. The railroads of the country were also at
first enormously overcapitalized, but the trouble has cured itself in
the course of time. The surpluses have been spent on improvements, and
railroad shares to-day represent actual values. Such a change has in
fact already set in among the trusts. Paternal regulation by the
government, which prescribes how industry shall go on, is always
essentially distasteful to Americans. Exact regulative measures which
shall be just cannot be framed beforehand by any government. Even Adam
Smith believed, for instance, that the form of organization known as a
stock company was suitable for only a few kinds of business. The
American prefers to submit all such questions to the actual business
test. All experimental undertakings are sifted by natural selection, and
the undesirable and unnecessary ones fall through. It is true that many
lose their property in such experiments, but that is only a wholesome
warning against thoughtless undertakings and against hasty belief that
the methods profitable in one field must be profitable in every other.
It is true that here and there a man will make large profits rather too
easily, but Roosevelt has well said that it is better that a few people
become too rich than that none prosper.

The development of affairs shows most of all that prices can be inflated
for a short time, but that they slowly come back to a reasonable figure
so long as there are no real monopolies. The experience of the last ten
years teaches, moreover, that the most important factor which works
against the trusts is the desire for independence on the part of
capitalists, who do not for a long time willingly subordinate themselves
to any corporation, but are always tempted to break away and start once
more an independent concern.

And comparing the situation in 1904 with that of 1900, one sees that in
spite of the seeming growth of the trust idea, the trusts themselves
have become more solid by the squeezing out of fictitious valuations;
they are more modest, content themselves with less profits, and they are
much less dangerous because of the competition which has grown up around
them. The trusts which originally ruled some whole industry through the
country are to-day satisfied if they control two-thirds of it. A single
fundamental thought remains firm, that the development of industry
demands a centralized control. This idea works itself out more and more,
and would remain in spite of any artificial obstruction which might be
put before it. But the opposite tendencies are too deeply rooted in
human nature, in Anglo-Saxon law, and in the American’s desire for
self-initiative, to let this centralization go to dangerous limits.

But those who will not believe that the trusts, with their enormous
capitals, can be adequately restrained in this way, may easily content
themselves with that factor which, as the last few years have shown,
speaks more energetically than could Congress itself—this is organized
labour. The question of capital in American economy is regulated finally
by the question of labour.

                         _The Labour Question_

As the negro question is the most important problem of internal
politics, so the labour question is the most important in American
economic life; and one who has watched the great strikes of recent
years, the tremendous losses due to the conflicts between capital and
labour, may well believe that, like the negro question, this is a
problem which is far from being solved. Yet this may not be the case.
With the negro pessimism is justified, because the difficulties are not
only unsolved, but seem unsolvable. The labour question, however, has
reached a point in which a real organic solution is no longer
impossible. Of course, prophecies are dangerous; and yet it looks as if,
in spite of hard words, the United States have come to a condition in
which labourers and capitalists are pretty well satisfied, and more so
perhaps than in any other large industrial nation. It might be more
exact to say that the Americans are nearer the ideal condition for the
American capitalist and the American labourer, since the same question
in other countries may need to be solved on wholly different lines.

In fact, the American problem cannot be looked into without carefully
scrutinizing how far the factors are peculiar to this nation. Merely
because certain general factors are common to the whole industrial
world, such as capital, machinery, land values, labour, markets, and
profits, the social politician is inclined to leave out of account the
specific form which the problem takes on in each country. The
differences are chiefly of temperament, of opinions, and of mode of

It is, indeed, a psychological factor which makes the American labour
question very different from the German problem. This fact is neglected,
time after time, in the discussions of German theorists and business
men. It is, for instance, almost invariably affirmed in Germany that the
American government has done almost nothing toward insuring the labourer
against illness, accident, or old age, and that therefore America is in
this respect far inferior to Germany. It can easily be foreseen, they
say, that American manufacturers will be considerably impeded in the
world’s market as soon as the progress of civilization forces them to
yield this to the working-man.

The fact is that such an opprobrium betrays a lack of understanding of
American character. The satisfaction felt in Germany with the laws for
working-men’s insurance is fully justified; for they are doubtless
excellent under German conditions, but they might not seem so
satisfactory to the average American nor to the average American
labourer. He looks on it as an interesting economic experiment,
admirable for the ill-paid German working-man, but wholly undesirable
for the American. The accusation that the American government fails in
its duty by not providing for those who have served the community, is
the more unjust, since America expends on the average $140,000,000 in
pensions for invalid veterans and their widows, and is equally generous
wherever public opinion sees good cause for generosity.

It cannot be doubted that the American labourer is a different sort of
creature from the Continental labourer; his material surroundings are
different, and his way of life, his dwelling, clothes and food, his
intellectual nourishment and his pleasures, would seem to the European
workmen like luxuries. The number of industrial labourers in the year
1880 was 2.7 million, and they earned $947,000,000; in 1890 it was 4.2
million earning $1,891,000,000; and in 1900 there were 5.3 million
labourers earning $2,320,000,000; therefore, at the time of the last
census, the average annual wage was $437. This average figure, however,
includes men, women, and children. The average pay of grown men alone
amounts to $500. This figure gives to the German no clear idea of the
relative prosperity of the working-man without some idea of the relation
between German and American prices.

One reads often that everything is twice as expensive in America as in
Germany, while some say that the American dollar is worth only as much
as the German mark—that is, that the American prices are four times the
German; and still others say that American prices are not a bit higher
than German. The large German-American steamships buy all their
provisions of meat in New York rather than in Hamburg or Bremen, because
the American prices are less. If one consults, on the other hand, a
doctor or lawyer in New York, or employs a barber or any one else for
his personal services, he will find it a fact that the American price is
four times as high as the German. The same may be said of articles of
luxury; for bouquets and theatre tickets the dollar is equal to the
mark. It is the same with household service in a large town; an ordinary
cook receives five dollars per week, and the pay of better ones
increases as the square of their abilities. Thus we see at once that an
actual comparison of prices between the United States and Europe cannot
be made. A dollar buys five marks’ worth of roast beef and one mark’s
worth of roses.

In general, it can be said that the American is better off as regards
all articles which can be made in large quantities, and worse off in
articles of luxury and matters of personal service. The ready-made suit
of clothes is no dearer in America than in Germany and probably better
for the price, while the custom-made suit of a first-class tailor costs
about four times what it would cost in Germany. All in all, we might say
that an American who lives in great style and spends $50,000 a year can
get no greater material comforts than the man in Germany who spends a
third as much—that is, 70,000 marks. On the other hand, the man who
keeps house with servants, but without luxuries, spending, say, $5,000 a
year, lives about like a man in Germany who spends 10,000 marks—that is,
about half as much. But any one who, like the average labourer, spends
$500 in America, unquestionably gets quite as much as he would get with
the equal amount of 2,100 marks in Germany.

But the more skilled artisan gets $900 on the average—that is, about
three times as much as the German skilled workman; so that, compared
with the wages of higher-paid classes, the working-men are paid
relatively much more than in Europe. The average labourer lives on the
same plane as the German master artisan; and if he is dissatisfied with
the furnishings of his home it is not because he needs more chairs and
tables, but because he has a fancy for a new carpet or a new bath-tub.
In this connection we are speaking always of course of the real
American, not the recent immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe,
who are herded together in the worst parts of large cities, and who sell
their labour at the lowest rate. The native American labourer and the
better class of German and Irish immigrants are well clothed and fed and
read the newspapers, and only a small part of their wages goes for

More important than the economic prosperity of the American working-man,
though not wholly independent of it, is the social self-respect which he
enjoys. The American working-man feels himself to be quite the equal of
any other citizen, and this not merely in the legal sense. This results
chiefly from the intense political life of the country and the
democratic form of government, which knows no social prerogatives. It
results also from the absence of social caste. There is a considerable
class feeling, but no artificial lines which hinder any man from working
up into any position. The most modest labourer knows that he may, if he
is able, work up to a distinguished position in the social structure of
the nation.

And the most important thing of all is probably the high value put on
industry as such. We have spoken of this in depicting the spirit of
self-initiative. In fact, the background of national conceptions as to
the worth of labour must be the chief factor in determining the social
condition of the working-man. When a nation comes to that way of
thinking which makes intellectual activities the whole of its culture,
while economic life merely serves the function of securing the—outward
comforts of the nation as it stretches on toward its goal of culture,
then the industrial classes must content themselves with an inferior
position, and those who do bodily labour, with the least possible amount
of personal consideration. But when a nation, on the other hand,
believes in the intrinsic worth of industrial culture, then the labour
by which a man lives becomes a measure of his moral worth, and even
intellectual effort finds its immediate ethical justification only in
ministering to the complex social life; that is, only so far as it is

Such now is the conception of the American. Whether a person makes laws,
or poetry, or railway ties, or shoes, or darning-needles, the thing
which gives moral value to his life’s work is merely its general
usefulness. In spite of all intellectual and æsthetic differences, this
most important element of activity is common to all, and the manual
labourer, so far as he is industrious, is equal to those who work with
their brains. On the other hand, the social parasite, who perhaps has
inherited money and uses it only for enjoyment, is generally felt to be
on a lower plane than the factory hand who does his duty. For the
American this is not an artificial principle, but an instinctive
feeling, which may not do away with all the thousand different shadings
of social position, but nevertheless consigns them to a secondary place.
One may disapprove of such an industrial conception of society, and like
better, for example, the æsthetic conception of the Japanese, who teach
their youth to despise mercantile business and tastefully to arrange
flowers. But it is clear that where such an industrial conception
prevails in a nation the working-man will feel a greater self-respect
and greater independence of his surroundings, since the millionaire is
also then only a fellow-workman.

Undoubtedly just this self-respect of the American labourer makes him
the great industrial force which he is. The American manufacturer pays
higher wages than any of his competitors in the markets of the world and
is not disconcerted at this load, because he knows that the
self-respecting working-man equalizes the difference of price by more
intense and intelligent labour. It is true that the perfection of
labour-saving machinery is a tremendous advantage here, but after all it
is the personal quality of the working-man which has brought about that
in so many industries ten American workmen do more than fifteen or, as
experts often say, twenty Italian workmen. The American manufacturer
prefers to hire a hundred heads rather than a thousand hands, even if
the wages are equal, and even the greedy capitalist prefers the labourer
who is worth thirty dollars a week to one who is worth only twenty. The
more the working-man feels himself to be a free co-operator, the more
intelligently does he address himself to the work. We hear constantly of
improvements which artisans have thought out, and this independent
initiative of theirs does not in the least impair the discipline of
industry. American discipline does not mean inferiority and the giving
up of one’s own judgment, but is a free willingness to co-operate and,
for the common end, to intrust the leadership to some one else. This
other person is exalted to the trustworthy position of leader by the
desire of those concerned, so that each man is carrying out his own will
in obeying the foreman.

Therefore, everything which in any wise savours of compassion is
entirely out of the question for him. In fact, the friendly benevolence,
however graciously expressed, intended to remind the workman that he is
after all a human creature, perhaps the friendly provision of a house to
live in or of some sort of state help for his family, must always be
unwelcome to him, since it implies that he is not able, like other
fathers of a family, to be forethoughtful and provident. He prefers to
do everything which is necessary himself. He insures himself in a
life-insurance company and, like anybody else, he looks out for his own
interests—tries to improve his conditions by securing good contracts
with his employer, by arranging organizations of his fellow-workmen, and
by means of his political rights. But whatever he accomplishes, he
enjoys it because he has worked in free competition against opposing
interests. Any material benefits which he might purchase by enduring the
patronizing attitude of capitalists or legislators would be felt to be
an actual derogation.

And thus it happens that social democracy, in the technical sense, makes
no advance among American workmen. The American labourer does not feel
that his position is inferior; he knows that he has an equal opportunity
with everybody else, and the idea of entire equality does not attract
him, and would even deprive him of what he holds most valuable—namely,
his self-initiative, which aims for the highest social reward as a
recognition of the highest individual achievement. American society
knows no unwritten law whereby the working-man of to-day must be the
same to-morrow, and this gives to the whole labour question in America
its distinction from the labour question in European aristocratic
countries. In most cases the superiors have themselves once been
labourers. Millionaires who to-day preside over the destinies of
thousands of working-men have often themselves begun with the shovel or
hod. The workman knows that he may set his ambition as high as he likes,
and to exchange his equal opportunity for an equality of reward would
mean for him to sink back into that social condition in which industry
is thought to be only a means to something else, and not in itself a
valuable activity. Although Bellamy may already dream of the common
umbrella, his native country is probably further from social democracy
than any country in Europe, because the spirit of self-initiative is
here stronger than anywhere else, and because the general public is
aware that no class distinctions cut it off from the highest positions
in the country. It knows that everything depends on industry, energy,
and intelligence.

This does not hinder the working-men, in their fight for better
conditions of labour, from adopting many socialistic tenets. The
American calls it socialism even to demand that the government own
railways, telegraph lines, express companies, or coal-fields, or that
the city conduct tramways, or gas or electric-light works. Socialism of
this sort is undoubtedly progressing, although the more extravagant
ideas find more wordy orators to support them than hearers to give
belief. It is also very characteristic that the labour leaders do not
make such agitation their life work, but often after a few years go over
to one or another civil occupation. The relation between working-man and
capitalist, moreover, is always felt to be temporary. A man is on one
side of the line to-day and on the other to-morrow. There is no firm
boundary between groups of men, but merely a distribution in temporary
groups; and this separates the American labour unions from even the
English unions, with which otherwise they have much in common.

Many other conditions by which the American working-man’s life is
separated from the Englishman’s are of an economic sort. It is
remembered, for instance, how successful the English unions have been in
establishing co-operative stores, while in America they have failed in
this. The department shops in the large cities have been able to sell
cheaper and better goods, and have been in every way more popular. But
enough of comparing America with the Old World—we must discuss the
actual situation in the New.

The labour movement of the United States really began in the third
decade of the last century. Of course, only the North is in question; in
the South slavery excluded all alliances and independent movements for
improving the condition of the manual labourer. There had been small
strikes as early as the eighteenth century, but the real movement began
with the factories which were built during the nineteenth.

From the very beginning the demand for shorter hours and higher wages
were the main issues. At the same time the American world was filled
more or less with fantastic notions of co-operation, and these
influenced the course of affairs. Boston and New York were the centres
of the new movement. As early as 1825 in New York there appeared the
first exclusively labour newspaper, the “Labour Advocate”; it commenced
a literature which was to increase like an avalanche. The labourers
figured independently in politics in 1830, when they had their own
candidate for governor. But all political endeavours of the working
people have been mere episodes, and the chief labour movements of the
century have taken place outside of politics; the leading unions have
generally found that their strength lay in renouncing political
agitation. Only when legal measures for or against the interests of
labourers have been in question, has there been some mixing in with
politics, but the American workmen have never become a political party.

At the beginning of the thirties, working-men of different industries
united for the first time in a large organization, such as later became
the regular form. But at the outset of the movement there appeared also
the opposite movement from the side of the capitalists. For instance, in
1832 merchants and shipholders in Boston met solemnly to declare it
their duty to oppose the combinations of working people which were
formed for the illegal purpose of preventing the individual workman from
making a free choice as regards his hours of labour, and for the purpose
of making trouble with their employers, who already paid high wages.

The organization of the working-man and that of the employer have grown
steadily, and the nation itself has virtually played the rôle of an
attentive but neutral spectator. In the case of direct conflict the
sympathy of the country has almost always been on the side of the
working-man, since in the concrete case the most impressive point was
generally not the opposition between capital and labour, but the
personal contrast of the needy day-labourer and the rich employer; and
the sentimentality of the American has always favoured the weaker
classes. The nation however, has shown an equal amount of sympathy
toward capital whenever a general matter of legislation was in question;
that is, whenever the problem has seemed more theoretical than personal.
In such cases the capitalists have always been felt to be the pioneers
of the American nation by putting their enterprise into all sorts of new
undertakings, applying their capital and intelligence to economic life;
so that they have seemed to a greater extent in need of national
protection than the workman, who may always be easily replaced by some
one else.

Considering the matter as a whole, it can be said indeed that the nation
has preserved a general neutrality, and let both parties virtually
alone. A change has very recently taken place. The new conditions of the
industrial struggle make it clearer day by day that there are three
parties to the conflict, rather than two; that is, not only capitalist
and labourer, but also the general public, which is dependent on the
industrial output, and therefore so immediately concerned in the
settlement of differences as to seem, even in concrete cases, entitled
to take active part. The turning-point came perhaps during the coal
strike in the winter of 1902–03, when the President himself stood out to
represent this third party. But we must follow the development more
minutely—must speak of the labour organizations as they exist to-day, of
the results of legislation, of the weapons employed by the labourers and
those used by the capitalists, of their advantages and disadvantages,
and of the latest efforts to solve the problem. Three forms of
working-men’s organizations can be discriminated to-day—the Knights of
Labour, the independent trades-unions, and the federated trades-unions.

The Knights of Labour are by principle different from both of the other
groups; and their influence, although once very great, is now waning.
Their fundamental idea is a moral one, while that of their rivals is a
practical one. This is, of course, not to be taken as meaning that the
labour unions pursue immoral ends or the Knights of Labour unpractical
ones. The Knights of Labour began very modestly in 1869 as a secret
organization, somewhat like the Free Masons, having an elaborate
initiation and somewhat unusual procedures. Their constitution began
with the motto, “Labour is noble and sacred,” and their first endeavours
were for the intellectual uplifting of the labourer and opposition to
everything which made labour mean or unworthy. The order grew steadily,
but at the same time the practical interests of different groups of
working-men necessarily came into prominence. In the middle eighties,
when they gave up their secret observances, the society had about a
million members, and its banner still proclaimed the one sentiment that
industry and virtue not wealth are the true measure of individual and
national greatness. Their members, they insisted, ought to have a larger
share of the things which they produced, so as to have more time for
their intellectual, moral, and social development. In this moral spirit,
the society worked energetically against strikes and for the peaceful
settlement of all disputes.

Its principal weakness was perhaps that, when the membership became
large, it began to take part in politics; the Knights demanded a reform
in taxation, in the currency, in the credit system, and a number of
other matters in line with state socialism. It was also a source of
weakness that, even in local meetings, working-men of different trades
came together. This was of course quite in accordance with the ethical
ideal of the society. As far as the moral problems of the workmen are in
question, the baker, tailor, mason, plumber, electrician, and so on,
have many interests which are identical; but practically it turned out
that one group had little interest in its neighbour groups, and
oftentimes even strongly conflicting interests were discovered. Thus
this mixed organization declined in favour of labour societies which
comprised members of one and only one trade, so that at the present time
the Knights of Labour are said to number only 200,000 and their
importance is greatly reduced. It is still undoubted that the idealistic
formulation in which they presented the interests of labour to the
nation has done much to arouse the public conscience.

At the present time the typical form of organization is the
trades-union, and between the independent and the federated
trades-unions there is no fundamental difference. There are to-day over
two million working-men united in trades-unions; the number increases
daily. And this number, which comprises only two-fifths of all
wage-earners, is kept down, not because only two-fifths of the members
of each trade can agree to unite, but because many trades exist which
are not amenable to such organization; the unions include almost all men
working in some of the most important trades. The higher the employment
and the more it demands of preparation, the stronger is the organization
of the employed. Printers, for instance, almost all belong to their
union, and in the building and tobacco trades there are very few who are
not members. The miners’ union includes about 200,000 men, who represent
a population of about a million souls. On the other hand, it would be
useless and impossible to perfect a close organization where new
individuals can be brought in any day and put to work without any
experience or training; thus ordinary day-labourers are not organized.
The number of two million thus represents the most important trades, and
includes the most skilled workers.

The oldest trades-union in America is the International Typographical
Union, which began in 1850. It is to be noticed at once that the
distinction between national and international trades-unions is a wholly
superficial one, for in the hundreds of so-called international unions
there has been no effort to stretch out across the ocean.
“International” means only that citizens of Canada and, in a few cases,
of Mexico are admitted to membership. It has been the experience of
other countries, too, that the printing trades were the first to
organize. In America the hatmakers followed in 1854, the iron founders
in 1859, and the number of organized trades increased rapidly during the
sixties and seventies. The special representation of local interests
soon demanded, on the one hand, the division of the larger societies
into local groups, and, on the other, the affiliation of the larger
societies having somewhat similar interests. Thus it has come about that
each locality has its local union, and these unions are affiliated in
state organizations for purposes of state legislation and completely
unified in national or international organizations. On the other hand,
the unions belonging to different trades are pledged locally and
nationally to mutual support. But here it is no longer a question, as
with the Knights of Labour, of the mixing up of diverse interests, but
of systematic mutual aid on practical lines.

The largest union of this sort is the American Federation of Labour,
which began its existence in Pittsburg in 1881, and has organized a
veritable labour republic. The Federation took warning at the outset
from the sad fate of previous federations, and resolved to play no part
in politics, but to devote itself exclusively to industrial questions.
It recognized the industrial autonomy and the special character of each
affiliating trades-union, but hoped to gain definite results by
co-operation. They first demanded an eight-hour day and aimed to forbid
the employment of children under fourteen years of age, to prevent the
competition of prison labour and the importation of contract labour;
they asked for a change in laws relating to the responsibility of
factory owners and for the organization of societies, for the
establishment of government bureaus for labour statistics, and much else
of a similar sort. At first the Federation had bitter quarrels with the
Knights of Labour, and perhaps even as bitter a one with socialistic
visionaries in its own ranks. But a firm and healthy basis was soon
established, and since the Federation assisted in every way the
formation of local, provincial, and state organizations, the parts grew
with the help of the whole and the whole with the help of the parts.
To-day the Federation includes 111 international trades-unions with 29
state organizations, 542 central organizations for cities, and also
1,850 local unions which are outside of any national or international
organizations. The interests of this Federation are represented by 250
weekly and monthly papers. The head office is naturally Washington,
where the federal government has its seat. Gompers is its indefatigable
president. Outside of this Federation are all the trades-unions of
railway employees and several unions of masons and stonecutters. The
railway employees have always held aloof; their union dates from 1893,
and is said to comprise 200,000 men.

The trades-unions are not open to every one; each member has to pay his
initiation fees and make contributions to the local union, and through
it to the general organization. Many of the trades-unions even require
an examination for entrance; thus the conditions for admission into the
union of electrical workers are so difficult that membership is
recognized among the employers themselves as the surest evidence of a
working-man’s competence. Every member is further pledged to attend the
regular meetings of the local branch, and in order that these local
societies may not be too unwieldy, they are generally divided into
districts when the number of members becomes too great to admit of all
meeting together. The cigarmakers of the City of New York, for example,
have a trades-union of 6,000 members, which is divided into ten smaller
bodies. Every single society in the country has its own officials. If
the work of the official takes all his time, he receives a salary equal
to the regular pay for work in his trade. The small organizations send
delegates to the state and national federations; and wherever these
provincial or federal affiliations represent different trades, each of
these trades has its own representative, and all decisions are made with
that technical formality which the American masters so well. In
accordance with this parliamentary rigour, every member is absolutely
pledged to comply with the decisions of the delegates. Any one who
refuses to obey when a strike is ordered thereby loses all his rights.

The rights enjoyed by the members of the trades-unions are in fact
considerable. Firstly, the local union is a club and an employment
agency, and especially in large cities these two functions are very
important for the American working-man. Then there are the arrangements
for insurance and aid. Thus the general union of cigarmakers of the
country, which combines 414 local unions having a total membership of
34,000 men, has given in the last twenty years $838,000 for the support
of strikes, $1,453,000 for aid to ill members, $794,000 for the families
of deceased members, $735,000 for travelling expenses, and $917,000 for
unemployed members; and most of the large unions could show similar
figures. Yet these are the lesser advantages. The really decisive thing
is the concessions which have been won in the economic fight, and which
could never have been gotten by the working-men individually.
Nevertheless, to-day not a few men hold off from the unions and get rid
of paying their dues, because they know that whatever organized labour
can achieve, will also help those who stay outside.

The main contention of these trades-unions refers to legislation and
wages, and no small part of their work goes in fighting for their own
existence—that is, in fighting for the recognition of the union labourer
as opposed to the non-union man—a factor which doubtless is becoming
more and more important in the industrial disputes. Many a strike has
not had wages or short hours of labour or the like in view, but has
aimed solely to force the employers officially to recognize the
trades-unions, to make contracts with the union delegates rather than
with individual men, and to exclude all non-union labourers.

The newly introduced contention for the union label is in the same
class. The labels were first used in San Francisco, where it was aimed
to exclude the Chinese workmen from competition with Americans. Now the
labels are used all over the country. Every box of cigars, every brick,
hat, or piano made in factories which employ union labour, bears the
copyrighted device which assures the purchasing public that the wares
were made under approved social and political conditions. The absence of
the label is supposed to be a warning; but for the population of ten
millions who are connected with labour unions, it is more than a
warning; it is an invitation to boycott, and this is undoubtedly felt as
a considerable pressure by manufacturers. The more the factories are
thus compelled to concede to the unions, and the more inducements the
unions thus offer to prospective members, and the faster therefore these
come in, the more power the unions acquire. So the label has become
to-day a most effective weapon of the unions.

But this is only the means to an end. We must consider these ends
themselves, and first of all labour legislation. Most striking and yet
historically necessary is the diversity in the statutes of different
states, which was formerly very great but is gradually diminishing. The
New England states, and especially Massachusetts, have gone first, and
still not so fast as public opinion has often desired. In the thirties
there were many lively fights for the legislative regulation of the
working hours in factories, and yet even the ten hours a day for women
was not established until much later; on the other hand, the employment
of children in factories was legislated on at that time, and in this
direction the movement progressed more rapidly.

A considerable step was taken in 1869, when Massachusetts established at
the expense of the state a bureau for labour statistics, the first in
the world; this was required to work up every year a report on all
phases of the labour question—economic, industrial, social, hygienic,
educational, and political. One state after another imitated this
statistical bureau, and especially it led to the establishment of the
Department of Labour at Washington, which has already had a world-wide
influence. During the seventies there followed strict laws for the
supervision of factories, for precautionary measures, and hygienic
improvements. Most of the other states came after, but none departed
widely from the example of Massachusetts, which was also the first state
to make repeated reductions in the working-day. Here it followed the
example of the federal government. To be sure, the reduction of the
working-day among federal employees was first merely a political
catering to the labour vote, but the Federation kept to the point and
the separate states followed. Twenty-nine states now prescribe eight
hours as the day for all public employees and the federal government
does the same.

The legislative changes in the judicial sphere have been also of
importance for trades-unions. According to Old English law at the
beginning of the nineteenth century, it was conspiracy for workmen to
unite for the purposes which the trades-unions to-day hold before
themselves. This doctrine of conspiracy, which to be sure from the
beginning depended largely on the arbitrary interpretation of the
judges, has been weakened from time to time through the century, and has
finally given away to legal conceptions which put no obstacles in the
way of the peaceful alliance of working-men for the purpose of obtaining
better conditions of labour. They especially regard the strike as lawful
so long as violence is not resorted to. Nearly all states have now
passed laws which so narrow the old conception of criminal conspiracy
that it no longer stands in the way of trades-unions. Other legal
provisions concern the company stores. In some mining districts far
removed from public shops, the company store may still be found, where
the company buys the articles needed by its employees and sells these
things to them at a high price. But nearly every state has legally done
away with this system; it was, indeed, one of the earliest demands of
the trades-unions.

There have been great improvements too in legislation relating to the
responsibility of employees. The Anglo-Saxon law makes an employer
responsible for injury suffered by the workmen by reason of his work,
but not responsible if the injuries are due to the carelessness of a
fellow-workman. The penalty fell then on the one who had neglected his
duty. It was said that the workman on taking up his duties must have
known what the dangers were. But the more complicated the conditions of
labour have become, the more the security of any individual has depended
on a great many fellow-labourers who could not be identified, so that
the old law became meaningless. Therefore, the pressure of trades-unions
has in the last half century steadily altered and improved the law in
this respect. American state law to-day virtually recognizes the
responsibility of the employer for every accident, even when due to the
carelessness of some other labourer than the one injured.

Thus on the whole a progress has been made all along the line. It is
true that some states have still much to do in order to come up with the
most advanced states, and the labour unions have still many demands in
store which have so far been nowhere complied with—as, for instance,
that for the introduction of the Swiss referendum, and so forth.
Government insurance is not on this programme—one point in which the
American working-man remains individualistic. He prefers to make
provision for those dependent on him, against old age, accident and
illness, in his own way, by membership in unions or insurance companies.
As a fact, more than half the labouring men are insured. Then too the
number of industrial concerns is increasing which make a voluntary
provision for their employees against illness and old age. This was
started by railroad companies, and the largest systems fully realize
that it is in their interest to secure steady labour by putting a
pension clause in the contract. When a workman takes work under
companies which offer such things, he feels it to be a voluntary
industrial agreement, while state insurance would offend his sense of

The state has had to deal with the labour question again in the matter
of strikes, lockouts, boycotts, and black-lists. During the last two
decades of the nineteenth century, there were 22,793 strikes in the
country, which involved 117,509 workers; the loss in wages to the
workmen was $257,000,000 and in profit to the employers $122,000,000;
besides that $16,000,000 were contributed to aid the strikes, so that
the total loss made about $400,000,000. The problems here in question
are of course much more important than the mere financial loss. About 51
per cent. of these strikes resulted successfully for the workmen, 13 per
cent. partially successfully, and in 36 per cent. the employers won.

Since 1741, when the bakers of New York City left work and were
immediately condemned for conspiracy, there has been no lack of strikes
in the country. The first great strike was among sailors in 1803, but
frequent strikes did not occur until about 1830. The first strike of
really historical importance was on the railroads in 1877; great
irregularities and many street riots accompanied the cessation of work,
and the state militia had to be called out to suppress the disturbances
in Cincinnati, St. Louis, Chicago, and Pittsburg. The losses were
tremendous, the whole land suffered from the tumults, and in the end the
working-men won nothing. When in the year 1883 all the telegraphers in
the country left their work and demanded additional payment for working
on Sunday, most of the country was in sympathy with them; but here too
the employers, although they lost millions of dollars, were successful.
In 1886 there were great strikes again in the railroad systems of the

The bitterness reached its highest point in 1892, when the Carnegie
Steel Works at Homestead were the scenes of disorder. Wages were the
matter under dispute; the company, which could not come to an agreement
with the labour union, proposed to exclude organized labour and
introduced non-union workmen. The union sought by the use of violence to
prevent the strangers from working; the company called for aid from the
state; the union still opposed even the militia, and actual battles took
place, which only the declaration of martial law by the governor, after
the loss of many lives, was able to suppress.

The Chicago strike in 1894 was more extensive. It began with a strike in
the Pullman factories in Chicago, and at its height succeeded in
stopping the traffic on a quarter of all American railroads. The
interruption of railway connections meant a loss to every person in the
country, and the total loss is estimated at $80,000,000. The worst
accompaniments of strikes soon appeared—riots, intimidations, assaults,
and murders. And again it was necessary to call out troops to restore
peace. Great wage disputes followed presently in the iron and steel
trades; but these were all surpassed in inner significance by the great
coal strike of the winter before last.

The conditions of labour in the anthracite coal mines of Pennsylvania
were unfavourable to the labourers. They had bettered themselves in a
strike in 1900, but the apparently adequate wages for a day’s labour
yielded a very small annual income, since there was little employment at
some seasons of the year. The working-men felt that the coal trusts
refused to raise the wages by juggling with arguments; the capitalists
tried to prove to them that the profit on coal did not permit a higher
wage. But the labourers knew too well that the apparently low profits
were due only to the fact that the trusts had watered their stock, and
especially that the coal mines were operated in connection with
railroads under the same ownership, so that all profits could be brought
on the books to the credit of the railroads instead of the mines. The
trades-unions thought the time was ripe for demanding eight hours a day,
a ten per cent. increase in wages, and a fundamental recognition of
trades-unions, along with a few other technical points. The organized
miners, under their leader, Mitchell, offered to wait a month, while the
points of difference might be discussed between both parties; Senator
Hanna, whose death a short time later took from politics one of the
warmest friends of labour, offered his services as mediator, and left no
doubt that the workmen would accept some compromise.

In spite of this moderation of the working-men, the representatives of
the mine owners refused in any way to treat with them. Their standpoint
was that if they recognized the trades-unions in their deliberations,
they were beginning on a course which they might not know how to stop;
if eight hours were demanded to-day by the trades-unions, seven hours
might be demanded in the same way next year. The employers thought it
high time once for all to break up the dictatorial power of the
trades-unions. President Baer explained that trades-unions are a menace
to all American industry. The strike continued. Now the anthracite
miners produce five million tons every month, which supply all the homes
in the eastern part of the country. A cold winter came on, and the lack
of coal throughout the country brought about a condition which resembled
the misery and sufferings of a time of siege. In many places it was not
even a matter of price, although this was four times what it ordinarily
is, but the supply of coal was actually used up. Schools and churches
had to be closed in many places. And now the public understood at last
perfectly clearly that, if the trades-unions wanted to exert their whole
power, the country would be absolutely helpless under their tyranny.
Nevertheless, the embitterment turned most strongly against the
employers, who still affirmed that there was nothing to arbitrate, but
that the workmen simply must give in.

The workmen then put themselves on the wrong side by threatening with
violence all men who came to take their places in the mines; indeed,
they forced back by barbarous methods the engineers who came to pump out
the water which was collecting in the mines. Troops had to be called,
but at that moment the President took the first steps toward a solution
of the problem by calling representatives of both parties to Washington.
A commission was finally appointed, composed of representatives of both
parties and well-known men who were neutrally inclined, and after
Pierpont Morgan on the side of the capitalists gave the signal to
consent to arbitration, the coal miners went back to work. The
commission met, and some time later in the year 1903 decided about half
of the points under dispute in favour of the miners, the other half
against them. This was by no means the last strike; the building trades
in many parts of the country, and specially in New York, were thoroughly
demoralized during the year 1903, the movement proceeding from the
strikes of 5,000 bridge builders: then too, the textile workers of the
East and miners of the South have been restless. And at the present
time, every day sees some small strike or other inaugurated, and any day
may see some very large strike declared. It was the coal strike,
however, which set the nation thinking and showed up the dangers which
are threatening.

The results of the coal strike had shown the friends of trades-unions
more clearly than ever the strength which lies in unity. They had seen
that results could be achieved by united efforts such as could never
have been gotten by the unorganized working-man. They had seen with
satisfaction that the trades-unions had taken a conservative part by
putting off the great strike as long as possible; and they had seen that
the employers would not have consented for their part to any
arbitration. In the end not only many of the union demands had been
granted, but, more than that, the policy of the trades-unions had been
put in the most favourable light. A whole country had to suffer, human
lives were sacrificed and millions lost, and in the end the
trades-unions won their point; if the mine owners had been willing in
the autumn to do what they had to do in winter, a great deal of injury
would have been spared. But the trades-unions could truthfully say that
they had been true to their policy and had always preferred peace to
war. The majority of votes within the trades-unions was against
thoughtless and unnecessary strife, against declaring a strike until all
other means had been tried. Many people felt that the interests of that
neutral party, the nation at large, were better looked out for by the
more thoughtful union leaders than by such capitalists as were the
Pennsylvania coal magnates.

On the other hand, it was felt that the most calmly planned strikes can
lead to embitterment and violence, and the tyrannical and murderous
suppression of the non-union working-man. And here the American sense of
freedom is touched. Every man has the right to decide freely under what
conditions he shall work; the strike-breaker was regarded as a hero, and
the trusts did their best to convince the world that the interference of
the trades-unions in the movements of non-union workmen is a menace to
American democracy. The unionists admit that it is unlawful power which
they have used, but pretend that they had a moral right; they say that
every working-man has a claim on the factory more than his weekly wage:
for he has contributed to its success; he has in a way a moral share,
which brings him no income, but which ought to assure him of his
position. And now, if during a strike an outside person comes in and
takes his place, it is like being robbed of something which he owns, and
he has the right of asserting his claim with such means as any man would
use on being assaulted.

Capitalists turned against the trades-unions with the greater
consternation, because these latter put not only the independent
working-man, but also the companies, in a powerless position. They
showed that their right to manage their own property was gone, and that
the capitalist was no longer the owner of his own factory the instant he
was not able to treat with the individual working-man, but forced to
subject himself to the representatives of trades-unions. It was easy to
show that while he, as undertaker of the business, had to take all the
risks and be always energetic and industrious, the working-men were
simply showing their greed and laziness by wanting shorter days, and
that they would never be really satisfied. It was affirmed that the best
workman was an unwilling party to the strike, and that he would more
gladly attend to his work than to trades-union politics, and that as a
fact he let his trades-union be run by irresponsible good-for-nothings,
who played the part of demagogues. Every man who had ever saved a cent
and laid it up, ought to be on the side of the capitalist.

But the public took a rather different attitude, and felt that the group
of capitalists had been revealed in a bad light by the strike, and when
their representatives came to instruct the President of the United
States, in a brusque way, on the rights of property, the public began to
revise its traditional ideas. The public came to see that such large
corporations as were here in question were no longer private enterprises
in the ordinary sense of the word; that a steel trust or coal trust
cannot be such an independent factor in the commonwealth as a grocery
shop in a country town. It was felt that the tremendous growth of the
business was the product of national forces, and in part dependent on
public franchises; wherefore, the business itself, although privately
owned, nevertheless had a semi-public character, so that the public
should not be refused the right to interfere in its management. Belief
in state socialism, in state ownership of railroads and mines, made
great progress in those days; and the conviction made still greater
progress that the working-man has a moral right to take an active hand
in managing the business in which he works.

And so public opinion has come round to think that violence on the part
of working-men, and refusal to treat with trades-unions on the part of
employers, are equally to be condemned. The community will hardly again
permit capital and labour to fight out their battles in public and make
the whole nation suffer. It demands that, now that labour is actually
organized in unions, disputes shall be brought up for settlement before
delegates from both sides, and that where these cannot come to a
solution the matter shall be brought before a neutral court of
arbitration which both sides agree to recognize.

Of course these disputes will continue to arise, since the price of
manufactured articles is always changing; the employer will always try
to lower wages in dull times, and the labourers will try to force wages
up during busy times. But it may be expected that the leaders of
trades-unions will be able to consider the whole situation intelligently
and to guide the masses of working-men carefully through their ambitions
and disappointments. Although the employers of labour continue to assert
that, so soon as they are handed over to the mercies of the
trades-unions, the spirit of enterprise will be entirely throttled and
capital will decline to offer itself, because all profit is sacrificed
to the selfish tyranny of the working people, nevertheless, experience
does not show this to be true. Trades-unions are convinced that, in
these days of machinery, too small a part of the profit falls to the
labouring man; but they know perfectly well that they themselves can
prosper only when the industry as a whole is prosperous, and that it
cannot prosper if it is burdened by too high wages. Trades-unions know
also that after all they will be able to gain their point in courts of
arbitration and elsewhere only so long as they have the sympathy of the
public on their side, and that every undue encroachment on the profits
of capital and every discouragement of the spirit of enterprise will
quickly lose them the sympathy of the American nation. If they really
attack American industry, public opinion will go against them. That they
know, and therefore the confidence is justified that, after all, their
demands will never endanger the true interests of capital. Capitalists
know to-day that they will always have trades-unions to deal with, and
that it will be best to adapt themselves to the situation. Many
thoughtful captains of industry admit that the discipline of
trades-unions has had some salutary effect, and that some of their
propositions, such as the sliding wage-scale, have helped on industry.

Thus both parties are about to recognize each other with a considerable
understanding. They instinctively feel that the same condition has
developed itself on both sides; on the one side capital is combined in
trusts, and on the other labour has organized into unions. Trusts
suppress the competition of capital, trades-unions kill the non-union
competitor. The trusts use as weapons high dividends, preferential
rates, and monopoly of raw material; the unions use the weapons of
old-age insurance, free aid during illness, the union label, strikes,
and boycotts. Both sides have strengthened their position by the
consolidation of many interests; just as the steel works are allied with
large banks, railroads, steamship lines, copper mines, and oil
companies, so the leaders of trades-unions take care to spread the
disputes of one industry into other industries.

Moreover, both parties fight alike by means of artificially limiting the
market; and this is, perhaps, the most dangerous factor of all. While
the trusts are continually abandoning factories or temporarily shutting
them down in order to curtail production, so the trades-unions restrict
the offering of labour. Not every man who wants to learn a trade is
admitted to an apprenticeship; the trades-union does not allow young men
to come in while old men who have experience are out of work. The
regulation of the flow of labour into the trades which require training,
and the refusal of union men to work with non-union men, are certainly
the most tyrannical features of the situation; but the trades-unions are
not embarrassed to find high-sounding arguments for their course, just
as the trusts have found for their own similar doings.

Things will continue in this way on both sides, no doubt; and the nation
at large can be content, so far at least as, through this concentration
and strict discipline on both sides, the outcome of the labour question
is considerably simplified. As long as the mass of capitalists is split
up and that of working-men chaotically divided, arbitration is
difficult, and the results are not binding. But when two well-organized
parties oppose each other in a business-like way, with mutual
consideration and respect, the conference will be short, business-like,
and effective.

The next thing necessary is simply an arrangement which shall be so far
as possible automatic for appointing an unprejudiced court of
arbitration in any case when the two parties are not able to agree. In
this matter public opinion has gone energetically to work. In December,
1901, at the instigation of the National Civic League, a conference of
leading representatives of capital and labour was called, and this
appointed a standing commission to pass on disputes between employers
and labourers. All three parties were represented here—capital by the
presidents of the largest trusts, railroads, and banks, trades-unions by
the leaders of their various organizations, and the public by such men
as Grover Cleveland, Charles Francis Adams, Archbishop Ireland,
President Eliot, and others, who enjoy the confidence and esteem of the
whole nation.

It has been objected that the millions of unorganized working-men are
not represented, but in fact these neutral leading men of the nation are
at the same time the representatives of unorganized labour. If these
were in any other way to be represented by delegates, they would have to
organize in order to choose such delegates. But this is just what
unorganized labour does not wish to do. Everything looks as if this
permanent commission would have the confidence of the nation and,
although created unofficially, would contribute a good deal to prevent
the outbreak of real industrial wars. But there can be no doubt that the
nation is ready to go further, and that if the two well-organized
parties, together with the men in whom both sides put their confidence,
are still not able to come to harmonious agreement, nor even to the
appointment of a court of arbitration, then the nation will quite likely
appoint an official and legally authorized board for compulsory

The example of New Zealand is encouraging in this direction, although
the experience of a small country may not be immediately applicable to a
large one. Nevertheless, there is some wish to imitate that example, and
to disregard the outraged feelings of capitalists who predict that
American industry will collapse utterly if the country becomes
socialistic enough to appoint arbitrators with the power to prescribe to
capital what wages it shall pay, and how otherwise it shall carry on
business. The nation has learned a good deal in the last two or three

A peaceable solution of the problem is promised also from another
direction. The dramatic wars have concerned generally very large
companies, which employ thousands of workmen. The whole thing has been
repeated, however, on a more modest scale, where thousands of working
people stood opposed not to large trusts but to hundreds of small
employers, who were not separated from the working-men by any social
cleft. Here the battles have often been more disastrous for the
employers and their helplessness before small unions more patent. Then
it became natural for them to imitate the example of the workmen and to
form organizations to regulate the situation.

The first employers’ union was formed in 1890 by the owners of
newspapers, for whom sudden strikes are of course especially disastrous.
For ten years very few trades followed this example; but in the last few
years trades-unions of employers have been quietly forming in almost all
trades, and here the situation has been much more favourable from the
outset for bringing employer and labourer to a mutual understanding.
While the employers were not organized, an understanding was hard to
arrive at; but now both sides are able to make contracts which must be
in all respects advantageous, and one of the most important clauses has
regularly been that disputes shall be submitted to a court of

Whether this solution will be a source of great satisfaction to the
public seems doubtful, since, as soon as local employers and working-men
close an agreement for offensive and defensive co-operation, the general
public is left in the lurch, and an absolute monopoly is created. When,
for instance, in a large city, all the proprietors in the electric
trades have agreed to employ only union workmen, and all workmen have
agreed to work for only such as belong to the employers’ union, it is
hardly possible for a new employer to step in as competitor and lower
prices, since he would have difficulty in getting workmen. The
consequence is that every house owner in the city who wants an electric
bell must pay such prices as the employers’ and workmen’s unions have
seen fit to agree on. Free competition is killed.

The problem of so-called economic freedom is thus opened up again.
Trades-unions are, of course, the product of free and lawful agreement,
but one of their most important achievements is to pledge themselves to
furnish the employers’ union with a certain number of workmen, which is
sufficient for all needs. In return for this they receive the promise of
the employers to hire only members of the working-men’s union. The
result is, then, that the workman himself becomes a mere pawn, and is
dealt about like a Chinese coolie.

It is clear that these latest movements are able to contribute a great
deal, and already have so contributed, to the reconciliation of capital
and labour and to an appreciation of their common interests. The right
is being more and more conceded to labour unions of controlling certain
matters which relate to the discipline and conditions of work, and more
assurance is given to the working-men of permanent employment, so that
they are able to bring up their families with more confidence and
security. And cases of dispute are more and more looked on as
differences of opinion between partners of equal rank.

A good deal may still be done on both sides; especially the labour
unions must be more strict in their discipline: they must become
responsible for seeing that their members refrain from every sort of
violence during wage wars, and that every violation of law, particularly
with regard to strike-breakers, is avoided. It is true that labour
unions have always preached calmness, but have nevertheless looked on
willingly when individual members or groups of members, in their anger,
have indulged in lawlessness and crime. This must be stopped. It was in
the wish to avoid such responsibility that labour unions have hitherto
struggled against being forced to become legal corporations; they have
not wished to be legally liable for damages committed by their members.
But such legal liability will be absolutely necessary if contracts
between the unions of employers and those of labourers are to become
important. It is perhaps even more necessary for both sides to learn
what apparently American public opinion has forgotten, that a court of
arbitration must really arbitrate judicially and not merely hit on

The labour question is still not solved in America; but one must close
one’s eyes to the events of recent years in order to think that it is
unsolvable, or even unlikely to be solved soon. The period of warfare
seems in the East nearly over; both sides have found ways of asserting
themselves without impairing the progress of the nation’s industry. And
the nation knows that its progress will be more rapid in proportion as
both parties maintain their equilibrium and protect industrial life from
the tyranny of monopolies, whether of capital or labour.


                            CHAPTER FOURTEEN
                    _The Spirit of Self-Perfection_

There are three capital cities in the United States—Washington the
political capital, New York the commercial, and Boston the intellectual
capital. Everything in Washington is so completely subordinated to the
political life that even the outward aspect of the city is markedly
different from that of other American cities; buying and selling
scarcely exist. In spite of its three hundred thousand inhabitants, one
is reminded of Potsdam or Versailles; diplomats, legislators, and
officials set the keynote. Washington is unique in the country, and no
other large city tries to compete with it; unless, indeed, on a very
small scale a few state capitals, like Albany, which are situated away
from the commercial centres. Being unique, Washington remains isolated,
and its influence is confined to the political sphere. As a result,
there is a slight feeling of the unnatural, or even the unreal, about
it; any movements emanating from Washington which are not political,
hardly come to their full fruition. And although the city aspires to do,
and does do, much for art, culture, and especially for science, its
general initiative seems always to be lying under the weight of
officialdom. It will never become the capital of intellect.

In a like way, New York is really informed by but a single impulse—the
struggle for economic greatness. This is the meaning and the moral of
its life. In this respect, New York is not, like Washington, unique.
Chicago makes terrific strides in emulation of New York; and yet, so far
as one now sees, the city of three million dwellers around the mouth of
the Hudson will continue to be the economic centre of the New World. The
wholesale merchants, the banker potentates, and the corporation
attorneys set there the pace, as the senators and diplomats in
Washington, and dominate all the activities of the metropolis. Through
their influence New York has become the centre of luxury and fashion,
and wealth the most powerful factor in its social life. All this cannot
take place, and in such extreme wise, without affecting profoundly the
other factors of culture. The commercial spirit can be detected in
everything that comes from New York. On the surface it looks as if the
metropolis of commerce and luxury might perhaps be usurping for itself a
leading place in other matters. And it is true that the politics of New
York are important, and that her newspapers have influence throughout
the land. But yet a real political centre she will never become; new and
great political impulses do not withstand her commercial atmosphere. New
York is the chief clearinghouse for politics and industry; purely
political ideas it transforms into commercial.

This is still more true of strictly intellectual movements. One must not
be misled by the fact that there is no other city in the land where so
many authors reside, where so many books and magazines are published, or
so many works of art of all kinds are sold; or yet where so many
apostles of reform lift up their voices. That the millions of
inhabitants in New York constitute the greatest theatre for moral and
social reforms, does not prove that the true springs of moral energy lie
there. And the flourishing state of her literary and artistic activities
proceeds, once more, from her economic greatness rather than from any
real productive energy or intellectual fruitfulness. The commercial side
of the intellectual life of America has very naturally centred itself in
New York and there organized; but this outward connection between
intellect and the metropolis of trade has very little to do with real
intellectual initiative. Such association rather weakens than
strengthens the true intellectual life; it subjects art to the influence
of fashion, literature to the demands of commerce, and would make
science bow to the exigencies of practical life; in short, it makes
imminent all the dangers of superficiality. The intellectual life of New
York may be outwardly resplendent, but it pays for this in depth; it
brings into being no movements of profound significance, and therefore
has no standing as a national centre in these respects. As the
intellectual life of the political capital bears the stamp of
officialdom, so is that of the commercial capital marked with the
superficiality characteristic of trade and luxury. Intellectual life
will originate new thoughts and spread them through the country only
when it is earnest, pure, and deep; and informed, above all, with an

The capital of the intellectual life is Boston, and just as everything
which comes out of Washington is tinged with politics, or out of New
York with commerce, so are all the activities of Boston marked by an
intellectual striving for ideal excellence. Even its commerce and
politics are imbued with its ideals.

It is surprising how this peculiar feature of Boston strikes even the
superficial observer. The European, who after the prescribed fashion
lands at New York and travels to Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, and
Niagara, and then winds up his journey through the United States in
Boston, has in this last place generally the impression that he has
already come back from the New World into the Old. The admirable
traditions of culture, the thoroughly intellectual character of the
society, the predominance of interests which are not commercial—in fact,
even the quaint and picturesque look of the city—everything strikes him
as being so entirely different from what his fancy had pictured, from
its Old World point of view, as being specifically American. And no less
is it different from what the rest of his experience of the New World
has given him. Not until he knows the country more thoroughly does he
begin to understand that really in this Yankee city the true spirit of
the purely American life is embodied.

The American himself recognizes this leading position of Boston in the
intellectual life of his country, although he often recognizes it with
mixed feelings. He is fond, with the light irony of Holmes, to call
Boston “the hub of the universe.” He likes to poke fun at the Boston
woman by calling her a “blue-stocking,” and the comic papers habitually
affirm that in Boston all cabbies speak Latin. But this does not obscure
from him the knowledge that almost everything which is intellectually
exalted and significant in this country has come from Boston, that
Massachusetts, under the leadership of Boston, has become the foremost
example in all matters of education and of real culture, and that there,
on the ground of the oldest and largest academy of the country—Harvard
University—the true home of New World ideals is to be found. And the
intellectual pre-eminence of New England is no less recognizable in the
representatives of its culture which Boston sends forth through the
country; the artistic triumph of the Columbian Exposition may be
ascribed to Chicago, but very many of the men who accomplished this work
came from Massachusetts; the reform movement against Tammany belongs to
the moral annals of New York, but those workers whose moral enthusiasm
gained the victory are from New England. This latent impression, that
all the best æsthetic and moral and intellectual impulses originate in
New England, becomes especially deep the instant one turns one’s gaze
into the past. The true picture is at the present day somewhat overlaid,
because owing to the industrial development of the West the emigration
from New England has taken on such large proportions that the essential
traits of Massachusetts have been carried through the whole land. In
past times, her peculiar pre-eminence was much more marked.

Whoever traces back the origins of American intellectual life must go to
the fourth decade of the seventeenth century. Then the colonies in the
Southern and Middle States were flourishing as well as the Northern
colonies of New England; but only in these last was there any real
initiative toward intellectual culture. In the year 1636, only eight
years after the foundation of Boston, Harvard College was founded as the
first, and for a long while the only, school of higher learning. And
among the products of the printing-press which this country gave forth
in the whole seventeenth century such an astonishing majority comes from
New England that American literary history has no need to consider the
other colonies of that time. The most considerable literary figure of
the country at that time was Cotton Mather, a Bostonian. The eighteenth
century perpetuated these traditions. The greatest thinker of the
country, Jonathan Edwards, was developed at Harvard, and Benjamin
Franklin was brought up in Boston. The literature of New England was the
best which the country had so far produced, and when the time came for
breaking away politically from England, then in the same way the moral
energy and enthusiasm of Boston took front rank.

Not until these days of political independence did the true history of
the free and independent intellectual life of America begin. Now one
name followed close on another, and most of the great ones pertained to
New England. Poets like Longfellow, Lowell, and Holmes were Bostonians;
Whittier and Hawthorne also sprang from the soil of New England. Here,
too, appeared the intellectually leading magazines; in the first half of
the century the _North American Review_, in the second half the
_Atlantic Monthly_. Here the religious movement of Unitarianism worked
itself out, and here was formed that school of philosophers in whose
midst stood the shining figure of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Here sounded the
most potent words against slavery; here Parker, Garrison, Phillips, and
Sumner poured forth their charges against the South into the midst of a
public morally aroused. Here, also, first flourished the quiet work of
scientific investigation. Since the day when Ticknor and Everett studied
in Göttingen in the year 1815, there sprang up in Massachusetts, more
than anywhere else, the custom which caused young American scholars to
frequent German schools of higher learning. The historians Prescott,
Sparks, Bancroft, Parkman, and Motley were among this number. Here in
Boston was the classic ground for the cultivation of serious music, and
here was founded the first large public library. And all these movements
have continued down to this day. None of the traditions are dead; and
any one who is not deceived by superficial impressions knows that the
most essential traits of Boston and New England are the ones which, in
respect to intellectual life, lead the nation. Quite as the marble
Capitol at Washington is the symbol of the political power of America,
and the sky-scrapers of lower Broadway are the symbol of America’s
economic life, so we may say the elm-shaded college yard of Harvard is
the symbol of American intellectual capacity and accomplishment.

It may seem astonishing at first that a single vicinity can attain such
eminence, and especially that so small a part of the Union is able to
impress its character on the whole wide land. The phenomenon, however,
becomes almost a matter of course, if we put before ourselves how this
world-power slowly grew from the very smallest beginnings, and how this
growth did not take place by successive increments of large and compact
masses of people who had their own culture and their own independent
spirit, but took place by the continual immigration of wanderers who
were detached and isolated, and who joined themselves to that which was
already here, and so became assimilated. Then, as soon as a beginning
had been made, and in a certain place a specific expression had been
given to intellectual life, this way of thinking and this general
attitude necessarily became the prevailing ones, and in this way spread
abroad farther and farther. If in the seventeenth century, instead of
the little New England states, the Southern colonies, say, had developed
a characteristic and independent intellectual life, then by the same
process of constant assimilation the character and thought of Virginia
might have impressed itself on the whole nation as have the character
and thought of Massachusetts. Yet it was by no means an accident that
the spirit which was destined to be most vital did not proceed from the
pleasure-loving Virginians, but rather came from the severely earnest
settlers of the North.

The way of thinking of those Northern colonists can be admirably
characterized by a single word—they were Puritans. The Puritan spirit
influenced the inner life of Boston Bay in the seventeenth century, and
consequently the inner life of the whole country down to our time, more
deeply and more potently than any other factor. The Puritanical spirit
signifies something incomparably precious—it is much more admirable than
its detractors dream of; and yet at the same time, it carries with it
its decided limitations. For nearly three hundred years the genius of
America has nourished itself on these virtues and has suffered by these
limitations. That which the Puritans strove for was just what their name
signifies—purity; purity in the service of God, purity of character,
and, in an evil time, purity of life. Filled with the religious
doctrines of Calvinism, that little band of wanderers had crossed the
ocean in spite of the severest trials, in order to find free scope for
their Puritan ideals; had left that same England where, some time later
under Cromwell, they were to achieve a victory, although a short and
after all insignificant one. They much more cared for the spotlessness
of their faith than for any outward victory, and every impulse of their
devout and simple lives was informed by their convictions. Under these
circumstances it was no accident that here the intellectual and moral
ideals were not obscured by any economic or political preoccupations;
but from the very outset were accounted in themselves of prime
importance. Harvard College was founded as a school for the Puritan
clergy, and almost the entire American literature, which is to say the
literature of New England, of the seventeenth century is purely
religious, or at any rate is thoroughly permeated with the Calvinistic
way of thought.

Of course, externally this is all entirely changed, and it is almost a
typical example of this transformation, that Harvard, once a seminary
for ministers, to-day prepares not one-fiftieth part of its five
thousand students for the clerical calling. Indeed, as early as the year
1700, Yale University was founded in Connecticut, largely in the aim of
creating a fortress for the old faith, because Harvard had become too
much a place of free thought; and the great scholar of Harvard, the
preacher Jonathan Edwards, went away from Boston in anger because it
seemed to him, even in the eighteenth century, that the old Calvinistic
traditions had been lost. And then finally, in the nineteenth century,
appeared Unitarianism—a creed which became the most energetic enemy of
Calvinism. These changes and disruptions were, however, rather an
internal matter. They were actually nothing but small differences within
the Puritan community. From the meagre days of the Pilgrim Fathers down
to the time when Emerson in rhapsodic flights preached the ethical
idealism of Fichte, and Longfellow wrote his “Psalm of Life,” the old
Puritan spirit remained predominant.

One fundamental note sounded through the whole. Life was not to be lived
for the sake of pleasure, but for the sake of duty. Existence got its
sense and value only in ethical endeavour; self-perfection was the great
duty which took precedence over all others. Among the particularly
dogmatic tenets of the Calvinistic theology this self-searching became,
in the last resort, perhaps a somewhat dispiriting searching after inner
signs by which God was expected to show somewhat arbitrarily his favour.
More broadly taken, however, it signified rather a continual searching
of the conscience—a conscious suppression of impure, of worldly, and of
selfish impulses; and so in effect it was an untiring moral
purification. And if in this theological atmosphere it appeared as if
God had led a singularly large number of predestined spirits together
into the New England colonies, the reason was obviously this—that in
such a community of earnest, self-searching characters a moral purity
developed such as was to be found nowhere in the wild turmoil of the Old
World. When the entire life is so permeated by ethical ideals, there
indeed the nobler part of man’s nature cannot be conquered by lower
instincts or by the sordid demands of every-day life.

Such a place could not fail to be a favourable environment for any
intellectual undertakings. There serious books were more welcome than
the merely amusing ones which flourished in the rest of the colonies. In
New England more was done for education, the development of law and the
service of God, than for any outward show or material prosperity. In
short, the life of the intellect throve there from the very outset. And
yet of course this spirit of culture necessarily took a turn very
different from what it had been in the mother land, different from what
it was on the Continent, and different from what it would have been if
the Southern colonies had been intellectually dominant.

For the Puritan, absolutely the whole of culture was viewed from the
moral point of view. But the moral judgment leads always to the
individual; neither in the physical nor in the psychical world can
anything be found which has an ethical value except the good will of the
individual. No work of culture has any value in itself; it becomes
ethically significant only in its relation to the individual will, and
all intellectual life has ethically a single aim—to serve the highest
development of the individual. From this point of view, therefore,
science, poetry, and art have no objective value: for the Puritan, they
are nothing to accept and to make himself subordinate to; but they are
themselves subordinate means merely toward that one end—the perfection
of the man. Life was a moral problem, for which art and science became
important only in so far as they nourished the inner growth of every
aspirant. In the language of the newer time we might say that a
community developed under Puritan influences cared considerably more for
the culture of its individual members than for the creation of things
intellectual, that the intellectual worker did not set out to perfect
art and science, but aimed by means of art and science to perfect

Of course there must be some reciprocal working between the general body
of culture and the separate personalities, but the great tendency had to
be very different from that which it would have been had the chief
emphasis been laid on æsthetic or intellectual productions as such. In
Europe during the decisive periods the starting-point has been and
to-day is, the objective; and this has only secondarily come to be
significant for the subjective individual life. But in Puritan America
the soul’s welfare stood in the foreground, and only secondarily was the
striving for self-perfection, self-searching, and self-culture made to
contribute to the advance of objective culture. As a consequence
individual characters have had to be markedly fine even at a time in
which all creative achievements of enduring significance were very few.
Just in the opposite way the history of the culture of non-puritanical
Europe has shown the greatest creative achievements at the very times
when personal morals were at their lowest ebb.

But the spirit of self-perfection can have still an entirely different
source. In ethical idealism the perfection of personality is its own
end; but this perfection of the individual may also be a means to an
end, an instrument for bringing about the highest possible capacity for
achievement in practical life. This is the logic of utilitarianism. For
utilitarianism as well as for Puritan idealism the growth of science and
art, and the development of moral institutions, are nothing in
themselves, but are significant only as they work backward on the minds
of the individuals. Idealism demands the intellectual life for the sake
of the individual soul’s welfare, utilitarianism for the sake of the
individual’s outward success. A greater antithesis could hardly be
thought of; and nevertheless the desire for self-perfection is common to
both, and for both the increase of the national products of culture are
at the outset indifferent. It is clear that both of these tendencies in
their sociological results will always reach out far beyond their
initial aims. Puritanism and utilitarianism, although they begin with
the individual, nevertheless must bear their fruits in the whole
intellectual status of the nation. Ethical idealism aims not only to
receive, but also to give. To be sure, it gives especially in order to
inspire in others its own spirit of self-perfection, but in order so to
inspire and so to work it must give expression to its inner ideals by
the creation of objects of art and science. Utilitarianism, on the
contrary, must early set such a premium on all achievements which make
for prosperity that in the same way again the individual, from purely
utilitarian motives, is incited to bring his thought to a creative
issue. The intellectual life of the nation which is informed with
Puritan and utilitarian impulses, will therefore, after a certain
period, advance to a new and national stage of culture; but the highest
achievements will be made partly in the service of moral ideals, partly
in the service of technical culture. As the result of the first
tendency, history, law, literature, philosophy, and religion will come
to their flowering; in consequence of the second tendency, science and

In modern Continental Europe, both these tendencies have been rather
weakly developed. From the outset idealism has had an intellectual and
æsthetic bias. Any great moral earnestness has been merely an episode in
the thought of those nations; and in the same way, too, utilitarianism
has played really a subordinate rôle in their intellectual life, because
the desire for free initiative has never been a striking feature in the
intellectual physiognomy. The love of truth, the enjoyment of beauty,
and the social premiums for all who minister to this love and pleasure
have been in Continental Europe more potent factors in the national
intellectual life than either ethical idealism or practical
utilitarianism. And it is only because of its steady assimilation of all
European immigrants that the Puritan spirit of the New England colonies
has become the fundamental trait of the country, and that moral
earnestness has not been a mere episode also in the life of America.

There is no further proof necessary that, along with idealism,
utilitarianism has in fact been an efficient factor in all intellectual
activities of America. Indeed, we have very closely traced out how
deeply the desire for self-initiative has worked on the population and
been the actual spring of the economic life of all classes. But for the
American it has been also a matter of course that the successful results
of initiative presuppose, in addition to energy of character, technical
training and the best possible liberal education. Here and there, to be
sure, there appears a successful self-made man—a man who for his lack of
making has only himself to thank—and he comes forward to warn young
people to be wary of the higher culture, and to preach to them that the
school of practical life is the sole high-road to success. But the
exemplary organization of the great commercial corporations is itself a
demonstration against any such fallacious paradoxes. Precisely there the
person with the best training is always placed at the head, and the
actual results of American technique would be still undreamt of if the
American had preferred, before the solid intellectual mastery of his
problems, really nothing but energy or “dash” or, say, mere audacity.
The issues which really seriously interest the American are not between
the adherents of culture and the adherents of mere push, undeterred by
any culture; the material value of the highest possible intellectual
culture has come to be a dogma. The real issues are mainly even to-day
those between the Puritanical and utilitarian ideals of self-perfection.
Of course those most in the heat of battle are not aware of this; and
yet when in the thousandfold discussions the question comes up whether
the higher schools and colleges should have fixed courses of instruction
for the sake of imparting a uniform and general culture, or whether on
the other hand specialization should be allowed to step in and so to
advance the time for the technical training, then the Puritans of New
England and the utilitarians of the Middle States are ranged against
each other.

In fact, it is the Middle, and a little later on the Western, States,
where along with the tremendous development of the instinct of
individual initiative the pressure for the utilitarian exploitation of
the higher intellectual powers has been most lively. Also this side of
the American spirit has not sprung up to-day nor yesterday; and its
influence is neither an immoral nor a morally indifferent force.
Utilitarianism has decidedly its own ethics. It is the robust ethics of
the Philistine, with its rather trivial references to the greatest good
of the greatest number and citations of the general welfare. Benjamin
Franklin, for instance, preached no mean morality, along with his
labours for politics and science; but his words, “Honesty is the best
policy,” put morality on a level with the lightning-rod which he
invented. Both are means toward human prosperity. Although born and bred
in Boston, Franklin did not feel himself at home there, where for the
best people life was thought to be “a trembling walk with God.” For him
Philadelphia was a more congenial field of activity. To-day there is no
single place which is specially noted for its utilitarian turn of mind.
It is rather a matter of general dissemination, for the influence of the
entire Western population goes in this direction. But no one should for
a moment imagine that this utilitarian movement has overcome or
destroyed the Puritan spirit. The actual state of the national culture
can be understood only as a working together of these two types of the
spirit of self-perfection; and even to-day, the Puritan spirit is the
stronger—the spirit of New England is in the lead.

All that we have so far spoken of relates to that which is distinctly of
national origin; over and above this there is much which the American
has adopted from other nations. The most diverse factors work to make
this importation from foreign thought more easy. The wealth and the
fondness for travel of the American, his craze for collections, and his
desire to have in everything the best—this in addition to the
uninterrupted stream of immigration and much else—have all brought it
about that anything which is foreign is only too quickly adopted in the
national culture. Not until very lately has a more or less conscious
reaction against this sort of thing stepped in, partly through the
increased strengthening of the national consciousness, but more
specially through the surprisingly quick rise of native achievement. The
time for imitation in architecture has gone by and the prestige of the
English romance is at an end. And yet to-day English literature, French
art, and German music still exercise here their due and potent

Now, in addition to these influences which spring from the culture of
foreign nations, come finally those impulses which are not peculiar to
any one nation, but spring up in every country out of the lower
instincts and pleasures. Everywhere in the world mere love of diversion
tries to step in and to usurp the place of æsthetic pleasure. Everywhere
curiosity and sensational abandon are apt to undermine purely logical
interests, and everywhere a mere excitability tries to assume the rôle
of moral ardour. Everywhere the weak and trivial moral, æsthetic, and
intellectual appeals of the variety stage may come to be preferred over
the serious appeals of the drama. It is said that this tendency, which
was always deeply rooted in man’s nature, is felt more noticeably in our
nervous and excitable times than it was in the old days. In a similar
way one may say that it shows out still stronger in America than it does
in other countries. The reason for this is clear. Political democracy is
responsible for part of it; for in the name of that equality which it
postulates, it instinctively lends more countenance to the æsthetic
tastes, the judgment, and the moral inspiration of the butcher, the
baker and candlestick-maker than is really desirable if one has at heart
the development of absolute culture. Perhaps an even more important
factor is the purely economic circumstance that in America the masses
possess a greater purchasing power than in any other country, and for
this reason are able to exert a more immediate influence on the
intellectual life of the land. The great public is not more trivial in
the United States than elsewhere; it is rather, as in every democracy,
more mature and self-contained; but in America this great public is more
than elsewhere in the material position to buy great newspapers, and to
support theatres; and is thus able to exert a degrading influence on the
intellectual level of both newspaper and theatre.

In this way, then, the tendency of the lower classes toward those things
which are trivial may sometimes conceal the fine traits in the picture
of the national intellectual life; just as the readiness for imitation
may, for a time, bring in many a foreign trait. But nevertheless, there
is in fact a clearly recognizable, a free and independent intellectual
life, which everywhere reveals the opposition or the balance between
Puritanism and utilitarianism, and which is everywhere dominated by that
single wish which is common both to Puritans and to utilitarians—the
desire for the best possible development of the individual, the desire
for self-perfection.

Since, however, it remains a somewhat artificial abstraction to pick out
a single trait—even if that is the most typical—from the intellectual
make-up of the nation, so of course it is understood from the outset
that all the other peculiarities of the American work together with this
one to colour and shape his real intellectual life. Everywhere, for
instance, one notes the easily kindled enthusiasm of the American and
his inexhaustible versatility, his religious temperament and his
strongly marked feeling of decorum, his lively sense of justice and his
energy, and perhaps most of all his whimsical humour. Each one of these
admirable traits involves some corresponding failing. It is natural that
impetuous enthusiasm should not make for that dogged persistence which
so often has brought victory to various German intellectual movements;
so, too, a nice feeling for form grows easily impatient when it is a
question of intellectual work requiring a broad and somewhat careless
handling. Devotion to the supersensuous is inclined to lead to
superstition and mysticism, while a too sensitive feeling for fair play
may develop into hysterical sympathy for that which is merely puny;
versatility, as is well known, is only too apt to come out in fickle
dilettante activities, and the humour that bobs up at every moment
destroys easily enough the dignity of the most serious occasion. And yet
all this, whether good or bad, is a secondary matter. The spirit of
self-perfection remains the central point, and it must be always from
this point that we survey the whole field.

A social community which believes its chief duty to be the highest
perfection of the individual will direct its main attentions to the
church and the school. The church life in America is, for political
reasons, almost entirely separated from the influence of the state; but
the force with which every person is drawn into some church circle has
not for this reason lost, but rather gained, strength. The whole social
machine is devised in the interests of religion, and the impatience of
the sects and churches against one another is slight indeed as compared
with the intolerance of the churches as a whole against irreligion. The
boundaries are drawn as widely as possible, so that ethical culture or
even Christian Science may be included under the head of religion; but
countless purely social influences make strongly toward bringing the
spirit of worship in some wise into every man’s life, so that an hour of
consecration precedes the week of work, and every one in the midst of
his earthly turmoil heeds the thought of eternity, in whatever way he
will. And these social means are even stronger than any political ones
could be.

There is very much which contributes to deepen the religious feeling of
the people and to increase the efficiency of the churches. The very
numerousness of the different sects is not the least factor in this
direction, for it allows every individual conscience to find somewhere
its peculiar religious satisfaction. An additional impulse is the high
position which woman occupies, for she is more religiously endowed than
man. And yet another factor is the many social functions which the
churches have taken on themselves. In this last there is much that may
seem to the stranger too secular: the church which is at the same time a
club, a circulating library, and a place to lounge in, seems at first
sight to lose something of its dignity; but just because it has woven
itself in by such countless threads to the web of daily life, it has
come to pass that no part of the social fabric is quite independent of
it. Of course the external appearance of a large city does not strongly
indicate this state of things; but the town and country on the other
hand give evidence of the strong religious tendency of the population,
even to the superficial observer; and he will not understand the
Americans if he leaves out of account their religious inwardness. The
influence of religion is the only one which is stronger than that of
politics itself, and the accomplished professional politicians are sharp
to guide their party away from any dangerous competition with that

The church owes its power more or less to the unconscious sentiments in
the soul of the people, whereas the high position and support of the
public school is the one end toward which the conscious volition of the
entire nation is bent with firmest determination. One must picture to
one’s self the huge extent of the thinly populated country, the
incomparable diversity of the population which has come in, bringing
many differences of race and language, and finally the outlay of
strength which has been necessary to open up the soil to cultivation, in
order to have an idea of what huge labours it has taken to plant the
land from the Atlantic to the Pacific with a thick sowing of schools.
The desire for the best possible school system is for the American
actually more than a social duty—it has become a passion; and although
here and there it may have gone astray, it has never been afraid of any

The European who is accustomed to see the question of education left to
the government can hardly realize with what intensity this entire
population participates in the solution of theoretical problems and in
the overcoming of practical difficulties. No weekly paper or magazine
and no lecture programme of any association of thinking men could be
found in which questions of nurture and education are not treated.
Pedagogical publications are innumerable, and the number of those who
are technically informed is nearly identical with the number of those
who have brought up children. The discussions in Germany over, we may
say, high schools and technical schools, over modern and ancient
languages, or the higher education of women, interest a relatively small
circle as compared with similar discussions in America. The mere fact
that this effort toward the best school instruction has so deeply taken
hold of all classes of society, and that it leads all parties and sects
and all parts of the country to a united and self-conscious struggle
forward is in itself of the highest value for the education of the whole

In the broad basis of the public school is built a great system of
higher instruction, and the European does not easily find the right
point of view from which to take this. The hundreds of colleges,
universities, professional schools, and polytechnics seem to the casual
observer very often like a merely heterogeneous and disordered
collection of separate institutions, because there seems to be no common
standard, no general level, no common point of view, and no common end;
in short, there seems to be no system. And nevertheless, there is at the
bottom of it all an excellent system. It is here that one finds the most
elaborate and astonishing achievement of the American spirit, held
together in one system by the principle of imperceptible gradations; and
no other organization, specially no mere imitation of foreign examples,
could so completely bring to expression the American desire for

The topics of school and university would not make up one-half of the
history of American popular education. In no other country of the world
is the nation so much and so systematically instructed outside of the
school as in America, and the thousand forms in which popular education
is provided for those who have grown beyond the schools, are once more a
lively testimony to the tireless instinct for personal perfection.
Evening schools, summer schools, university extension courses, lecture
institutes, society classes, and debating clubs, all work together to
that end; and to omit these would be to give no true history of American
culture. The background of all this, however, is the great national
stock of public library books, from which even the poorest person can
find the best books and study them amid the most delightful

The popular educational libraries, together with the amazingly profuse
newspaper and magazine literature, succeed in reaching the whole people;
and, in turn, these institutions would not have become so large as they
are if the people themselves had not possessed a strong desire for
improvement. This thirst for reading is again nothing new; for
Hopkinson, who was acquainted with both England and America in the
middle of the eighteenth century, reported with surprise the difference
in this respect between the two countries. And since that time the
development has gone on and on until to-day the magazines are printed by
the hundreds of thousands, and historical romances in editions of half a
million copies; while public libraries exist not only in every small
city, but even in the villages, and those in the large cities are housed
in buildings which are truly monuments of architecture. As the influence
of books has grown, the native literature has increased and the arts of
modelling and sculpture have come forward at an equal pace, as means of
popular culture. Museums have arisen, orchestras been established, the
theatre developed, and an intellectual life has sprung up which is ready
to measure itself against the best that European culture has produced.
But the real foundation of this is even to-day not the creative genius,
but the average citizen, in his striving after self-perfection and

Once every year the American people go through a period of formal
meditation and moral reflection. In the month of June all the schools
close. Colleges and universities shut their doors for the long summer
vacation; and then, at the end of the year of study, according to an old
American custom, some serious message is delivered to those who are
about to leave the institutions. To make such a farewell speech is
accounted an honour, depending, of course, on the rank of the
institution, and the best men in the country are glad to be asked. Thus
it happens that, in the few weeks of June, hundreds of the leading
men—scholars, statesmen, novelists, reformers, politicians, officials,
and philanthropists—vie with one another in impressing on the youth the
best, deepest, and most inspiring sentiments; and since these speeches
are copied in the newspapers and magazines, they are virtually said to
the whole people. The more important utterances generally arouse
discussions in the columns of the newspapers, and so the month of June
comes to be a time of reflection and meditation, and of a certain
refreshment of inspiration and a revival of moral strength. Now, if one
looks over these speeches, one sees that they generally are concerned
with one of two great themes. Some of them appeal to the youth, saying;
Learn and cultivate yourselves, for this is the only way in which you
will arrive at becoming useful members of society: while the others
urge; Cultivate yourselves, for there is in life nothing more precious
than a full and harmonious development of the soul. The latter sentiment
is that of the Puritan, while the former is that of the utilitarian. And
yet the individualistic tendency is in both cases the same. In both
cases youth is urged to find its goal in the perfection of the

                            CHAPTER FIFTEEN
                  _The Schools and Popular Education_

The Dutch population of New Amsterdam started a school system in the
year 1621. The first public Latin school was founded in Boston in the
year 1635. The other colonies soon followed. Clearly the English
governor of Virginia, Berkeley, had not quite grasped the spirit of the
New World, when at about that time he wrote home, that, thank God, no
public schools and no printing-press existed here, and when he added his
hope that they would not be introduced for a hundred years, since
learning brings irreligion and disobedience into the world, and the
printing-press disseminates them and fights against the best intentions
of the government. For that matter it was precisely Virginia which was
the first colony, even before Boston and New York, to consider the
question of education. As early as 1619 the treasurer of the Virginia
Company had proposed, in the English Parliament, that 15,000 acres of
land should be set aside in the interests of a school for higher
education. The English churches became interested in the plan, and an
abundant supply of money was got together. Ground and buildings had been
procured for lower and higher instruction and all was in working order,
when in 1622 the fearful Indian war upset everything. The buildings were
destroyed, and all thought of public education was for a long time given
up. This is how that condition came about which so well pleased Governor
Berkeley. But this mishap to the Virginia colony shows at once how the
American system of education has not been able to progress in any
systematic way, but has suffered frequent reverses through war or
political disturbance. And it has developed in the different parts of
the country at a very different pace, sometimes even in quite different
directions. It was not until after the Civil War—that is, within the
last thirty years—that these differences have to a large extent been
wiped out. It is only to-day that one can speak of a general American
system. The outsider will, therefore, come to a better understanding of
the American educational system if he begins his study with conditions
as they are to-day, for they are more unified and therefore easier to
understand, than if he were to try to understand how the present has
historically come from the complicated and rather uninteresting past.

So we shall not ask how the educational system has developed, but rather
what it is to-day and what it aims to be. Even the present-day
conditions may easily lead a German into some confusion, because he is
naturally inclined to compare them with the conditions at home, and such
a comparison is not always easy. Therefore, we must picture to ourselves
first of all the fundamental points in the system, and describe its
principal variations from the conditions in Germany. A few broad strokes
will suffice for a first inspection.

The unit of the system in its completest form is a four years’ course of
instruction. For the easier survey we may think of a boundary drawn at
what in Germany would be between the Obersekunda and Prima of a
Gymnasium or Realschule. Now, three such units of the system lie before
and two after this line of demarcation. The son of a well-to-do family,
who is to study medicine in Harvard University, will probably reach this
line of demarcation in his eighteenth year. If he is advanced according
to the normal scheme he will have entered a primary school at six years
of age, the grammar school at ten, and the high school at fourteen. Thus
he will complete a twelve years’ course in the public schools. Now he
crosses our line of demarcation in his eighteenth year and enters
college. And as soon as he has finished his four years’ course in
college he begins his medical studies in the university, and he is
twenty-six years old when he has finished. If we count in two years of
early preparation in the kindergarten, we shall see that the whole
scheme of education involves twenty-two years of study. Now, it is
indeed possible that our young medical student will have progressed
somewhat more rapidly; perhaps he will have reached the high school
after six instead of eight years of study; perhaps he will finish his
college course in three years, and it may be that he will never have
gone to kindergarten. But we have at first to concern ourselves with the
complete plan of education, not with the various changes and
abbreviations of it, which are very properly allowed and even favoured.

The line which we call the great boundary is the time when the lad
enters college. Now, what is the great significance of this moment? The
German, who thinks in terms of Gymnasium and Universität, is almost sure
to fall into a misapprehension; for college is neither the one nor the
other. So far as the studies themselves go, it coincides rather well
with the Prima of the Gymnasium and the first two or three semesters in
the philosophical faculty of the German university. And yet even this by
no means tells one what a college really is. Above all, it does not
explain why the American makes the chief division at the time of
entering college, while the German makes it when he enters the medical
or law school. This needs to be explained most clearly, because very
important factors are here involved, which bear on the future of
American civilization. And so we must give especial attention to college
and the professional schools. But that discussion is to be reserved for
the chapter on the universities. For the present, we have only to deal
with the system of instruction in those schools which prepare for

And so, leaving the kindergarten out of the question, we shall deal with
those three institutions which we have called primary, grammar, and high
schools. Usually, the first two of these are classed together as one
eight years’ course of training. The European will be struck at once
that in this system there is only one normal plan of public education.
The future merchant, who goes to the high school and ends his studies in
the eighteenth year, has to follow the same course of study in the
primary and grammar schools as the peasant and labourer who studies only
until his fourteenth year, and then leaves school to work in the field
or the factory. And this young merchant, although he goes into business
when he is eighteen years old, pursues exactly the same studies as the
student who is later to go to college and the university. Now in fact,
in just this connection the actual conditions are admirably adapted to
the most diverse requirements; the public schools find an admirable
complement in private schools; and, more than that, certain very
complicated differentiations have been brought about within the single
school, in order to overcome the most serious defects of this
uniformity. Nevertheless, the principle remains; the system is uniform,
and the American himself finds therein its chief merit.

The motive for this is clear. Every one, even the most humble, should
find his way open; every one must be able to press on as far as his own
intelligence permits; in other words—words which the American pedagogue
is very fond of uttering—the public school is to make the spirit of
caste impossible. It is to wipe out the boundaries between the different
classes of society, and it is to see to it, that if the farmer’s lad of
some remote village feels within himself some higher aspiration, and
wants to go beyond the grammar school to the high school and even to
college, he shall find no obstacle in his way. His advance must not be
impeded by his suddenly finding that his entrance into the high school
would need some different sort of previous training.

This general intermingling of the classes of society is thought to be
the panacea of democracy. The younger generations are to be removed from
all those influences which keep their parents apart, and out of all the
classes of society the sturdiest youth are to be free of all prejudice
and free to rise to the highest positions. Only in this wise can new
sound blood flow through the social organism; only so can the great
evils incident to the formation of castes which have hindered old Europe
in its mighty progress be from the very outset avoided. The classic myth
relates of the hero who gained his strength because he kissed the earth.
In this way the American people believe that they will become strong
only by returning with every fresh generation to the soil, and if the
German Gymnasia were a hundred times better than they are, and if they
were able to prepare a boy from early childhood for the highest
intellectual accomplishment, America would still find them unsuited to
her needs, because from the outset they are designed for only a small
portion of the people, and for this reason they make it almost
impossible for the great mass of boys to proceed to the universities
from the ordinary public schools.

All of this is the traditional confession of belief of the pedagogue of
the New World. But now since America, in the most recent times, has
nevertheless begun to grow in its social structure considerably more
like antiquated Europe, and sees itself less and less able to overcome
the tendencies to a spirit of caste, so a sort of mild compromise has
been made between the democratic creed and aristocratic tendencies,
especially in the large cities of the East. Nevertheless, any one who
keeps his eyes open will admit that, so far as the public school goes,
intellectual self-perfection is in every way favoured, so that every
single child of the people may rise as high as he will. Grammar school
leads to the high school, and the high school leads to college.

There is another factor which is closely related to the foregoing.
Education is free and obligatory. In olden times there was more the
tendency for the parents of the children, rather than for the general
taxpayer, to pay for the maintenance of the schools. Indeed, there were
times in which the remission of the special school tax was considered
almost an act of charity, which only the poorest of the parents would
accept. But now it is quite different. The school system knows no
difference between rich and poor, and it is a fundamental principle that
the support of the schools is a matter for the whole community. The only
question is in regard to the high school, since after all only a small
percentage of school children comes as far as the high school; and it is
unjust, some say, to burden the general taxpayer with the expenses of
such school.

Nevertheless, on this point the opinions of those have won who conceive
that it is the duty of the community to nurture any effort toward
self-culture, even in the poorest child. The chief motive in olden
times, wherefore the expenses of the schools were paid by all, was that
the school was leading toward religion; to-day the official motive for
the application of taxes to the maintenance of schools is the conviction
that only an educated and cultivated people can rule itself. The right
to vote, it is said, presupposes the right to an education by means of
which every citizen becomes able to read the papers of the day and to
form his own independent opinion on public matters. But since every
public school is open also to the daughters of the citizens who possibly
want the right to vote, but do not so far have it, it becomes clear that
the above-mentioned political motive is not the whole of the matter. It
is enough for technical discussions of taxation, but what the community
is really working for is the greatest possible number of the most highly
educated individuals. Free instruction is further supplemented in
various states—as, for instance, in Massachusetts—by supplying
text-books gratis. Some other states go so far as to supply the needy
children with clothing. The obligatory character of education goes with
the fact that it is free. In this respect, too, the laws of different
states are widely divergent. Some require seven, others eight, still
others even nine years, of school training. And the school year itself
is fixed differently in different states.

These differences between the states point at once to a further fact
which has been characteristic of the American school system from the
very beginning. Responsibility for the schools rests at the periphery;
and in extremely happy fashion the authority is so divided that all
variations, wherever they occur, are adaptations to local conditions;
and nevertheless unity is preserved. A labile equilibrium of the various
administrative factors is brought about by harmonious distribution of
the authority, and this is, in all departments of public life, the
peculiar faculty of the Americans.

The federal government, as such, has no direct influence on education.
The tirelessly active Bureau of Education at Washington, which is under
the direction of the admirable pedagogue, Mr. Harris, is essentially a
bureau for advice and information and for the taking of statistics. The
legal ordinances pertaining to school systems is a matter for the
individual state, and the state again leaves it to the individual
community, within certain limits of course and under state supervision,
to build schools and to organize them, to choose their teachers, their
plans of education, and their school-books. And at every point here,
exactly as in the striking example of the federal Constitution, the
responsibility is divided between the legislative and the executive
bodies. The state inspector of schools is co-ordinate with the state
legislature, and the school inspector of a city or a country district,
who is elected now by the mayor, now by the council, now perhaps
directly by the community, is a sort of technical specialist with
considerable discretionary power; he is co-ordinated to the school
committee, which is elected by the community, and which directs the
expenditures and confirms all appointments.

The responsibility for the moral and intellectual standards, for the
practical conditions, and for the financial liabilities incurred by
every school, rests therefore immediately with the community, which has
to pay for their support, and whose children are to derive advantage.
And nevertheless, the general oversight of the state sees to it that
neither whimsicality nor carelessness abuses this right, nor departs too
widely from approved traditions. These authorities are further
supplemented in that the state legislature is more or less able to make
up for differences between rich and poor districts and between the city
and the country, besides directly carrying on certain normal schools in
which the teachers for the elementary and grammar schools are trained.

Very great and very diverse advantages are the immediate outcome
of this administrative system. Firstly, an interest in the
well-being of the schools is developed in every state, city, and
town, and the spirit of self-perfection is united with the spirit
of self-determination. Secondly, there is a good deal of free play
for local differences—differences between states and differences
within the state. Nothing would have been more unsuitable than in
this whole tremendous territory to institute a rigidly fixed
school system, as say by some federal laws or some interstate
agreements. If there were the same educational provisions for the
negro states of the South and for the Yankee states of New
England, for the thickly settled regions of the East and the
prairies of the West, these provisions would be either empty words
or else they would tend to drag down the more highly educated
parts of the country to the level of the lowest districts. The
German who objects to this on the ground of uniformity, does so
because he is too apt to think of the great similarity which
exists between the different sections of Germany. The only proper
basis for a comparison, however, would be his taking Europe as a
whole into consideration.

If now the outward unity of this system which we have described is
nevertheless to be maintained, it is absolutely necessary that this form
shall be filled with very different contents. And this introduction of
diversity is intrusted to the state legislatures and local authorities,
who are familiar with the special conditions. In this way the so-called
school year in the school ordinances of a rich state may be about twice
as long as in another state whose poorer population is perhaps not able
entirely to do without the economies of child labour. But the
differences between the schools take particularly such a form that the
attainments of the different schools, corresponding to the culture and
prosperity of the state in which they are, and of the community, are
consciously designed to be quite different. The remoter rural schools
which, on account of the poverty of their patronage perhaps, have to get
on with one badly trained teacher and have to carry on four grades of
instruction in one school-room, and other schools which employ only
university graduates, which bring their scholars together in sumptuous
buildings, afford them laboratories and libraries, and have all the
wealth of a great city to back them—these schools cannot seriously enter
into competition with each other. Two years of study in one place will
mean more than four in another; and there is no special danger in this,
since this very inequality has brought it about that the completion of
one grade in a school by no means carries with it the right to enter the
next higher grade of any other school. It is not the case that a scholar
who has passed through any grammar school whatsoever will be welcome in
every high school. This is regulated by an entrance examination for the
higher school, which will not accept merely the certificate of
graduation from a lower.

There are still other forms of this differentiation. In the first place,
the schools have shown a growing tendency to establish various parallel
courses, between which the scholars are allowed to choose. In the
simplest case there is, perhaps, on the one hand a very practical plan
of education, and a second course which is rather more liberal; or,
again, there may be a course for those who are not meaning to study
further, and another course for those who are preparing for the entrance
examinations to some higher school. The fiction of uniformity is
preserved in this way. The child does not, as in Germany, choose between
different schools; but he chooses between plans of education in the same
school, and every day the tendency deepens to make this elective system
more and more labile.

But the most modern pedagogues are not content even with this, and
insist, especially in the grade of the high school, that the make-up of
the course of study must be more and more, as they say, adapted to the
individuality of the scholars; or, as others think, to the whimsies of
the parents and the scholars. Since, in accordance with this, the
entrance examinations for the colleges leave considerable free play for
the choice of specialties, this movement will probably go on developing
for some time. It appeals very cleverly to the instincts of both the
Puritans and the utilitarians. The Puritan demands the development of
all individual gifts, and the utilitarian wants the preparation for an
individual career. Nevertheless, there are some indications of an
opposite tendency. Even the utilitarian begins to understand that he is
best fitted for the fight who bases his profession on the broadest
foundation—who begins, therefore, with his specialization as late as
possible. And the Puritan, too, cannot wholly forget that nothing is
more important for his personal development than the training of the
will in the performance of duty, in the overcoming of personal
inhibitions, and that therefore for the scholar those studies may well
be the most valuable which at the first he seems least inclined to
pursue. Further differentiation results from the almost universal
opportunity to pass through the schools in a somewhat shorter time. It
is also possible for a student to progress more rapidly in one branch of
study, and so in different branches to advance at different rates.

We have over and above all these things, and more particularly in the
large cities, a factor of differentiation which has so far been quite
left out of account. This is the private school. The goal for the
student who wants to advance is not the diploma of graduation, but
preparation for the entrance examinations which are next higher. This
preparation can perhaps be obtained more thoroughly, more quickly, and
under more fortunate social conditions, in a private school, which
charges a high tuition, but in this way is able to engage the very best
teachers, and able perhaps to have smaller classes than the public
schools. And such a private school will be able to extend its influence
over all education. Large and admirably conducted institutions have
grown up, often in some rural vicinity, where several hundred young
persons lead a harmonious life together and are educated from their
earliest youth, coming home only during vacation. In such ways the
private school has taken on the most various forms, corresponding to
obvious needs. They find justly the encouragement of the state.

This diversity which we have sketched of public and private educational
institutions brings us at once to another principle, which has been and
always will be of great significance in American material and
intellectual history—the principle that everywhere sharp demarcations
between the institutions of different grades are avoided, and that
instead, sliding gradations and easy transitions are brought about, by
means of which any institution can advance without any hindrance. This
is in every case the secret of American success—free play for the
creations of private initiative. The slightest aspiration must be
allowed to work itself out, and the most modest effort must be helped
along. Where anything which is capable of life has sprung up, it should
be allowed to grow. Sharp demarcation with official uniformity would
make that impossible; for only where such unnoticeably small steps form
the transitions, is any continuous inner growth to be expected. We have
emphasized the local differences. The grammar school in New York is
probably more efficient than the high school in Oklahoma, and the high
school in Boston will carry its students probably as far as some little
college in Utah.

The thousands of institutions which exist afford a continuous transition
between such extremes, and every single institution can set its own goal
as high as it wishes to. A school does not, by any act of law, pass into
a higher class; but it perfects itself by the fact that the community
introduces improvements, makes new changes, appoints better and better
teachers, augments the curriculum, and adds to its physical equipment.
In such ways, the school year by year imperceptibly raises its standard.
And the same is true of the private school. Everything is a matter of
growth, and in spite of the outward uniformity of the system every
school has its individual standard. If one were to require that only
such institutions should exist as had distinctly limited and similar
aims, then the American would look on this as he would on an attempt to
force all cities to be either of ten thousand, a hundred thousand, or a
million inhabitants. Of course, all this would have to be changed, if as
in Germany, certain school grades carried with them certain privileges.
In America no school diploma carries officially any privilege at all. It
is the entrance examination, and not the tests for graduation, which is
decisive; and if there is any question of filling a position, the
particular schools which the candidates have gone through are the things
which are chiefly taken into account.

We must mention one more trait which differentiates the American from
the German school system. The American public school is co-educational.
Co-education means theoretically that boys and girls are entitled to
common education, but practically it means that boys are also tolerated.
The idea that the school should not recognize differences of sex is most
firmly rooted in the Middle-Western States, where the population is
somewhat coldly matter of fact; but it has spread through the entire
country. It is said that family life lends the authority for such an
intermingling of boys and girls; that, through a constant and mutual
influence, the boys are refined and the girls are made hardy; and that,
during the years of development, sexual tension is diminished. It is one
of the chief attractions that the private school offers to smaller
circles that it gives up this hardening of the girls and refining of the
boys, and is always either a boys’ or a girls’ school.

Even more striking than the presence of girls in the boys’ schools is,
perhaps, the great number of women who figure as teachers. The
employment of women teachers began in the Northern States after the
Civil War, because as a direct result of the decimation of the
population there were not men teachers enough. Since that time this
practice has increased throughout the country; and although high schools
generally try to get men teachers, the more elementary schools are
really wholly in the hands of women. Men do not compete for the lower
schools, since the competition of the women has brought down the wages,
and more remunerative, not to say more attractive, situations are to be
found in plenty. Women, on the other hand, flock in in great numbers,
since their whole education has made them look forward to some
professional activity, and no other calling seems so peculiarly adapted
to the feminine nature. The merits and drawbacks of co-education and of
the predominance of women teachers cannot be separated from the general
question of woman’s rights; and so the due treatment of these conditions
must be put off until we come to consider the American woman from all

It is not difficult to criticise rather sharply the school system, and
any one living in the midst of American life will feel it a duty to
deliver his criticism without parsimony. A system which expects the best
it is to have, from the initiative of the periphery, must also expect
the ceaseless critical co-operation of the whole nation.

In this way, then, crying and undeniable evils are often pointed out. We
hear of political interference in the government of the schools, and of
the deficient technical knowledge of local authorities, of the
insufficient preparation of the women teachers, the poorness of the
methods of instruction, of waste of time, of arbitrary pedagogical
experiments, and of much else. In every reproach there is a kernel of
truth. The connection of the schools with politics is in a certain sense
unavoidable, since all city government is a party government. And the
attempts to separate elections for the school committee entirely from
politics will probably, for a long time yet, meet with only slight
success. Since, however, every party is able to put its hand on discrete
and competent men, the only great danger is lest the majority of those
concerned misuse their influence for party ends, and perhaps deal out
school positions and advancements as a reward for political services.

Such things certainly happen; but they never escape the notice of the
opposite party, and are faithfully exploited in the next year’s
election. In this way any great abuses are quickly checked. The secret
doings, which have nothing to do with politics, are a great deal more
dangerous. It is certain that the enormous school budgets of the large
cities offer the possibility for a deplorable plundering of the public
treasury, when it is a question of buying new land for school-houses, of
closing building contracts, or of introducing certain text-books. A
committee-man who in these ways is willing to abuse his influence is
able to derive a considerable profit; and so it may well happen that men
come to be on the school boards through political influence or through a
professed interest in school matters, who have really no other aim than
to get something out of it. It is very hard in such matters to arrive at
a really fair judgment, since the rival claimants who are unsuccessful
are very apt to frame the opinion that they have been so because the
successful man had “connections.”

This sharply suspicious tendency and spirit of over-watchfulness on the
part of the public are certainly very useful in preserving the complete
integrity of the schools, but they occasion such a considerable tumult
of rumour that it easily misleads one’s judgment as to the real
condition of the institutions. In general, the school committees
appointed in the local elections perform their work in all
conscientiousness. It is, of course, the fact that they are rather
frequently ignorant of things which they need to know; but the tendency
to leave all technical questions in the hands of pedagogical
specialists, and to undertake any innovations only at the advice of the
school superintendent and directors, is so general that on the whole
things do not go quite so badly as one might expect.

The preparation of the teachers leaves very much to be wished. Those
teachers who have been educated in higher seminaries are by no means
numerous enough to fill all the public school positions; and even less
does the number of college graduates suffice for the needs of the high
schools. The fact that the teaching profession is remarkably versed in
pedagogics only apparently relieves this defect; for even the very best
methods of teaching are of course no substitute for a firm grasp of the
subject which is being taught. In the elementary schools the lack of
theoretical training in a teacher is, of course, less felt. The instinct
of the teacher, her interest in the child, her tact and sympathy, in
short the personal element, are what is here most important. And since
all this, even in the superficially educated woman, springs purely from
her feminity, and since the energetic women are extraordinarily eager
and self-sacrificing, so it happens that almost everywhere the
elementary schools are better conducted by their women teachers than are
the high schools.

So far as method goes, a great deal too much stress is laid on the
text-book; too much is taught mechanically out of the book, and too
little is directly imparted by the teacher. The teacher submits
passively to the text-book; and the American himself is inclined to
defend this, since his democratic belief in the power of black and white
is unlimited. Before all, he regards it as the chief aim of the public
school to prepare the citizen for the independent reading of newspapers
and books. Therefore, the scholars are expected to become as much
acquainted as possible with the use of books. There is no doubt that the
American school children read more newspapers in later life than do the
European, and it must also be borne in mind that for the most part the
text-books are notably good. Perhaps, in regard to attractiveness, they
even go rather too far. In this way not only the books of natural
history, but also of history and literature, are crowded with
illustrations. The geographies are generally lavishly gotten-up volumes
with all sorts of entertaining pictures. The appeals to the eye, both by
means of the text-books and even more by the aid of demonstrations and
experiments, are carried really to excess. Even the blackboards, which
run along all four walls of the school rooms, encourage the teacher to
appeal rather more to the eye than to the ear.

Also the much-discussed experimentation with new pedagogical ideas is an
unfortunate fact which cannot be denied. A central authority, which was
held fully responsible for a large district, would of course be
conservative; but where the details of teaching are left entirely to
every local school inspector, then of course many shallow reforms and
many unnecessary experiments with doubtful methods will be undertaken.
The school inspector will feel himself moved to display his modern
spirit and to show his pedagogical efficiency in just these ways. And
many a private school, in order to make itself attractive to the public,
is obliged to introduce the latest pedagogical foibles and to make all
sorts of concessions, perhaps against its will. To-day the method of
writing will be oblique, to-morrow vertical, and the day after to-morrow
“reformed vertical.” The pupils to-day are taught to spell, to-morrow to
pronounce syllables, the next day to take the whole word as the least
unit in language; and a day later they may be taught the meaning of the
words by means of appropriate movements.

It is not quite easy for a professional psychologist, who lectures every
year to hundreds of students in that subject, to say openly that this
irregular and often dilettante craze for reform is encouraged by nothing
more than by the interest in psychology which rages throughout the
country. The public has been dissatisfied with teachers, and conceived
the idea that everything would be better if the pedagogues concerned
themselves more with the psychical life of their pupils. And since for
this purpose every mother and every teacher has the materials at hand,
there has sprung up a pseudo-psychological study of unexampled
dimensions. It is only a small step from such a study to very radical
reforms. Yet everything here comes back in the end to the independent
interests and initiative of the teacher; and although many of these
reforms are amateurish and immature, they are nevertheless better than
the opposite extreme would be—that is, than a body of indifferent and
thoughtless teachers without any initiative at all.

It is also not to be denied that the American school wastes a good deal
of time, and accomplishes the same intellectual result with a much
greater outlay of time than the German school. There are plenty of
reasons for this. Firstly, it is conspicuous throughout the country that
Saturday is a day of vacation. This is incidental to the Puritan Sunday.
The school day begins at nine o’clock in the morning, and the long
summer vacations are everywhere regarded as times for idleness, and are
almost never broken in on by any sort of work. Again, the home duties
required of the school children are fewer than are required of the
German child, and all the instruction is less exacting. The American
girls would hardly be able to stand so great a burden if the schools
demanded the same as the German boys’ schools. Herewith, however, one
must not forget that this time which is taken from work is dedicated
very specially to the development of the body, to sport and other active
exercises, and in this way the perfection of the whole man is by no
means neglected. Moreover, America has been able, at least so far, to
afford the luxury of this loss of time; the national wealth permits its
young men to take up the earning of their daily bread later than
European conditions would allow.

When the worst has been said and duly weighed, it remains that the
system as a whole is one of which the American may well be proud—a
system so thoroughly elastic as to be suited to all parts of the country
and to all classes of society. It is a system which indubitably, with
its broad foundation in the popular school, embodies all the
requirements for the sound development of youth, and one, finally, which
is adapted to a nation accustomed to individualism, and which meets the
national requirement of perfection of the individual.

And now finally we may give a few figures by way of orientation. In the
year 1902 out of the population of over 75,000,000, 17,460,000 pupils
attended institutions of learning. This number would be increased by
more than half a million if private kindergartens, manual training
schools, evening schools, schools for Indians, and so forth were taken
into account. The primary and intermediate schools have 16,479,177
scholars, and private schools about 1,240,000. This ratio is changed in
favour of the private institutions when we come to the next step above,
for the public high schools have 560,000 and the private ones 150,000
students. The remainder is in higher institutions of learning. To
consider for the moment only the public schools; instruction is imparted
by 127,529 male and 293,759 female teachers. The average salary of a
male teacher is more than $46 a month, and of the female teacher $39.
The expenditures were something over $213,000,000; and of this about 69
per cent. came from the local taxes, 16 per cent. from the state taxes,
and the remainder from fixed endowments. Again, if we consider only the
cities of more than 8,000 inhabitants, we find the following figures: in
1902 America had 580 such cities, with 25,000,000 inhabitants, 4,174,812
scholars and 90,744 teachers in the municipal public schools, and
877,210 students in private schools. These municipal systems have 5,025
superintendents, inspectors, etc. The whole outlay for school purposes
amounted to about $110,000,000.

The high schools are especially characteristic. The increase of
attendance in these schools has been much faster than that of the
population. In 1890 there were only 59 pupils for every 10,000
inhabitants; in 1895 there were 79; and in 1900 there were 95. It is
noticeable that this increase is entirely in the public schools. Of
those 59 scholars in 1890, 36 were in public high schools and 23 in
private. By 1900 there were 25 in private, but 70 in the public schools.
Of the students in the public high schools 50 per cent. studied Latin, 9
per cent. French, 15 per cent. German. The principal courses of study
are English grammar, English literature, history, geography,
mathematics, and physics. In the private schools 23 per cent. took
French, 18 per cent. German, 10 per cent. Greek. Only 11 per cent. of
students in the public high schools go to college, but 32 per cent. of
those in private schools. Out of the 1,978 private high schools in the
year 1900, 945 were for students of special religious sects; 361 were
Roman Catholic, 98 were Episcopalian, 96 Baptist, 93 Presbyterian, 65
Methodist, 55 Quaker, 32 Lutheran, etc. There were more than 1,000
private high schools not under the influence of any church. One real
factor of their influence is found in the statistical fact that, in the
public high schools, there are 26 scholars for every teacher, while in
the private schools only 11.

The following figures will suffice to give an idea of the great
differences which exist between the different states: The number of
scholars in high schools in the state of Massachusetts is 15 to every
1,000 citizens; in the state of New York, 11; in Illinois, 9; in Texas,
7; in the Carolinas, 5; and in Oklahoma, 3. In the private high schools
of the whole country the boys were slightly in the majority; 50.3 per
cent. against 49.7 per cent. of girls. In order to give at least a
glimpse of this abyss, we may say that in the public high school the
boys were only 41.6 per cent., while the girls were 58.4 per cent.

So much for the schools proper. We shall later consider the higher
institutions—colleges, universities, and so forth—while the actual
expanse of the school system in America, as we have said before, is
broader still. In the first place, the kindergarten, a contribution
which Germany has made, deserves notice. Very few creations of German
thought have won such complete acceptance in the New World as Froebel’s
system of education; and seldom, indeed, is the German origin of an
institution so frankly and freely recognized. Froebel is everywhere
praised, and the German word “Kindergarten” has been universally adopted
in the English language.

Miss Peabody, of Boston, took the part of pioneer, back in the fifties.
Very soon the movement spread to St. Louis and to New York, so that in
1875 there were already about one hundred kindergartens with 3,000
children. To-day there must be about 5,000 kindergartens distributed
over the country, with about a quarter of a million children. During
this development various tendencies have been noticeable. At first
considerable stress was laid on giving some rational sort of occupation
to the children of the rich who were not quite old enough for school.
Later, however, philanthropic interest in the children of the very
poorest part of the population became the leading motive—the children,
that is, who, without such careful nurture, would be exposed to
dangerous influences. Both of these needs could be satisfied by private
initiative. Slowly, however, these two extremes came to meet; not only
the richest and poorest, but also the children of the great middle
classes from the fourth to the sixth year, were gradually brought under
this sort of school training. As soon as the system was recognized to be
a need of the entire community, it was naturally adopted into the
popular system of instruction. To-day two hundred and fifty cities have
kindergartens as a part of their school systems.

Meanwhile there has sprung up still another tendency, which took its
origin in Chicago. Chicago probably has the best institution with a four
years’ course for the preparation of teachers for the kindergarten. In
this school not only the professional teachers, but the mothers, are
welcomed. And through the means of this institution in Chicago, the
endeavour is slowly spreading to educate mothers everywhere how to bring
up their children who are still in the nursery so as to be bodily,
intellectually, and morally sound. The actual goal of this very
reasonable movement may well be the disappearance of the official
kindergarten. The child will then find appropriate direction and
inspiration in the natural surroundings of its home, and the
kindergarten will, as at first, limit itself chiefly to those rich
families who wish to purchase their freedom from parental cares, and to
such poor families as have to work so hard that they have no time left
to look after their children. A slow reaction, moreover, is going on
among the public school teachers. The child who comes out of the Froebel
school into the primary school is said to be somewhat desultory in his
activities, and so perhaps this great popularity of the kindergarten
will gradually decrease. Nevertheless, for the moment the kindergarten
must be recognized as a passing fashion of very great importance, and,
so far as it devotes itself philanthropically to children in the poor
districts, its value can hardly be overestimated.

Now, all this instruction of the child before he goes to school is much
less significant and less widely disseminated than those thousandfold
modes of instruction which are carried on for the development of men and
women after they have passed their school days. Any one who knows this
country will at once call to mind the innumerable courses of lectures,
clubs of study, Chautauqua institutions, university extension courses,
women’s clubs, summer and correspondence schools, free scientific
lectures, and many other such institutions which have developed here
more plentifully than in any other country. After having dwelt on the
kindergarten, one is somewhat tempted to think also of these as men and
women gardens. There is really some resemblance to a sort of
intellectual garden, where no painful effort or hard work is laid out
for the young men and women who wander there carelessly to pluck the
flowers. But it is, perhaps, rather too easy for the trained person to
be unjust to such informal means of culture. It is really hard to view
the latter in quite the right perspective. Whosoever has once freed
himself from all prejudices, and looked carefully into the psychic life
of the intellectual middle classes, will feel at once the incomparable
value of these peculiar forms of intellectual stimulation, and their
great significance for the self-perfection of the great masses.

While the kindergarten was imported from Germany, the university
extension movement came from England. This movement, which was very
popular about a decade ago, is decidedly now on the wane. Those forms of
popular education which are distinctly American have shown themselves to
possess the most vigour. There is one name which, above all others, is
characteristic of these native institutions. It is Chautauqua. This is
the old Indian name for a lake which lies very pleasantly situated in
the State of New York, about two hours by train from Buffalo. The name
of the lake has gone over to the village on its banks, the name of the
village has been carried over to that system of instruction which was
first begun there, and now every institution is called Chautauquan which
is modelled after that system. Even to-day the school at Chautauqua is
the fountain-head of the whole movement. Every summer, and particularly
through July and August, when the school-teachers have their vacation,
some ten thousand men and women gather together to participate in a few
weeks of recreation and intellectual stimulation. The life there is
quiet and simple; concerts and lectures are given in the open air in an
amphitheatre which seats several thousand, and there are smaller classes
of systematic instruction in all departments of learning. The teachers
in special courses are mostly professors. The lecturers in the general
gatherings are well-known politicians, officials, scholars, ministers,
or otherwise distinguished personalities. For the sake of recreation,
there are excursions, dramatic performances, and concerts. A few hours
of systematic work every day serve as a stimulus for thought and
culture, while the mutual influence of the men and women who are so
brought together and the whole atmosphere of the place generate a real
moral enthusiasm.

The special courses which range from Greek, the study of the Bible, and
mathematics to political economy, philosophy, and pedagogics, are
supplemented on the one hand by examinations from which the
participators get a certificate in black and white which is highly
prized among teachers; and on the other side, by suggestions for the
further carrying on by private reading of the studies which they have
elected. The enthusiastic banner-bearer of Chautauqua is still to-day
one of its founders, Bishop Vincent. He has done more than any one else
toward bringing harmony into the monotonous and intellectually hungry
lives of hundreds of thousands throughout the country, and especially of
public school teachers. And in this work the instruction, the religious
strengthening, the instillation of personal contentment, patriotic
enthusiasm, æsthetic joy in life, and moral inspiration, are not to be

When Theodore Roosevelt, who was then governor of New York, spoke in the
Chautauqua amphitheatre to more than ten thousand persons, he turned
enthusiastically to Bishop Vincent and said, “I know of nothing in the
whole country which is so filled with blessing for the nation.” And when
he had finished, the whole audience gave him the Chautauqua salute; ten
thousand handkerchiefs were waved in the air—an extraordinary sight,
which in Chautauqua signifies the greatest appreciation. This custom
began years ago, when a deaf scholar had given a lecture, and while the
thundering applause was sounding which the speaker himself could not
hear, Bishop Vincent brought out this visible token of gratification;
and this form of applause not only became a tradition there, but also
spread to all other Chautauqua institutions throughout the country.
To-day there are more than three hundred of these, many of them in
beautifully situated summer resorts, and some equipped with splendid
libraries, banquet halls, casinos, and clubs. Some of these concentrate
their energies in particular lines of learning, and of course they are
very different in scope and merit. And nevertheless the fundamental
trait of idealism shows through all these popular academies.

Among other varieties of popular instruction there are the attempts at
university extension, which are very familiar. The chief aim is here to
utilize the teaching forces and other means of instruction of the higher
educational institutions for the benefit of the great masses. Often the
thing has been treated as if it were a matter of course, in a political
democracy, that colleges and universities ought not to confine
themselves to the narrow circles of their actual students, but should go
out and down to the artisans and labourers. But it was always asserted
that this education should not consist merely in entertaining lectures,
but should involve a form of teaching that presupposed a certain
participation and serious application on the part of the attendants. And
the chief emphasis has been laid on having every subject treated in a
series of from six to twelve meetings, on distributing to the hearers a
concise outline of the lectures with references to literature, on
allowing the audience after the lecture to ask as many questions as it
desired, and on holding a written examination at the end of the course.
Any one who has passed a certain number of these examinations receives a
certificate. In one year, for example, there were 43 places in which the
University of Philadelphia gave such courses of lectures. The University
of Chicago has arranged as many as 141 courses of six lectures each, in
92 different places. Other higher institutions have done likewise; and
if indeed the leading universities of the East have entirely declined to
take part, nevertheless the country, and particularly the West, is
everywhere scattered with such lecture courses.

These lectures can be divided into two groups; those which are
instructive and educate their hearers, and those which are inspiring and
awaken enthusiasm. The first are generally illustrated with stereopticon
pictures, the last are illustrated with poetical quotations. Here, as
everywhere in the world, the educational lectures are often merely
tiresome, and the inspiring ones merely bombastic. But the reason for
the rapid decline in this whole movement is probably not the bad quality
of the lectures, but the great inconvenience which the lecturers feel in
going so far from their accustomed haunts. It is not to be doubted that
very much good has come after all from this form of instruction. The
summer schools have a similar relation to the higher institutions, but a
much more thorough-going character; and while the university extension
movement is waning, the summer school instruction is on the increase.
First of all, even the leading universities take part in it, although it
is mostly the second violins who render the music; that is to say,
younger instructors rather than the venerable professors are the ones
who teach. High school teachers and ministers often return in this way
to their alma mater, and the necessity of devoting one’s self for six
weeks to a single subject gives to the whole enterprise a very much more
scholarly character. That interesting summer school which was held a few
years ago in Cambridge is still remembered, when Harvard invited at its
own expense 1,400 of the most earnest Cuban school teachers, and
instilled in them through six long weeks something of American culture.

Again, and this quite independent of the higher institutions and of any
formal courses, there are the institutions for free lectures. Indeed,
there are so many that one might almost call them lecture factories. The
receptive attitude of the American public of all classes toward lectures
surpasses the comprehension of the European. In many circles, indeed,
this is positively a passion; and the extraordinary plentifulness of
opportunity, of course, disciplines and strengthens the demand, which
took its origin in the same strong spirit of self-perfection.

A favourable fact is undoubtedly the high perfection to which the
lecture has been cultivated in America. As compared with European
countries, a larger proportion of lectures may fairly be called works of
art as regards both their content and their form. The American is first
of all an artist in any sort of enthusiastic and persuasive exposition.
For this very reason his lectures are so much more effective than
whatever he prints, and for this reason, too, the public flocks to hear
him. This state of things has also been favoured by the general custom
of going to political meetings and listening to political speeches. In
Boston and its suburbs, for example, although it is not larger than
Hamburg, no less than five public lectures per day on the average are
delivered between September and June. In contrast to German views, it is
considered entirely appropriate for lecturers on all public occasions to
receive financial compensation; just as any German scholar would accept
from a publisher some emolument for his literary productions. This is,
of course, not true of lectures at congresses, clubs, or popular
gatherings. In a state like Massachusetts, every little town has its
woman’s club, with regular evenings for lectures by outside speakers;
and the condition of the treasury practically decides whether one or two
hundred dollars shall be paid for some drawing speaker who will give a
distinguished look to the programme; or whether the club will be
satisfied with some teacher from the next town who will deliver his last
year’s lecture on Pericles, or the tubercle bacillus, for twenty
dollars. And so it is through the entire country; the quantity decreases
as one goes South, and the quality as one goes West.

All this is no new phenomenon in American life. In the year 1639
lectures on religious subjects were so much a matter of course in New
England, and Bostonians were so confirmed in the habit of going to
lectures, that a law was passed concerning the giving of such lectures.
It said that the poor people were tempted by the lecturer to neglect
their affairs and to harm their health, as the lectures lasted well into
the night. Scientific lectures, however, came into popular appreciation
not earlier than the nineteenth century. In the first decade of that
century, the famous chemist, Silliman, of Yale University, attained a
great success in popular scientific lectures. After the thirties
“lyceums” flourished throughout the land, which were educational
societies formed for the purpose of establishing public lecture courses.

To be sure, these were generally disconnected lectures, in which
political and social topics predominated. Those were the classic days of
oratory, when men like Webster, Channing, Everett, Emerson, Parker,
Mann, Sumner, Phillips, Beecher, Curtis, and others enthused the nation
with their splendid rhetoric, and presented to the masses with pathos
that we no longer know those great arguments which led to the Civil War.
The activities of later decades emphasized the intellectual side.
Splendid institutions have now been organized for popular lectures and
lecture courses in all the leading cities. Thus the Peabody Institute in
Baltimore, the Pratt Institute in New York, the Armour Institute in
Chicago, and the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia have come into
existence. The catalogue of the lectures and courses which, for
instance, the Pratt Institute announces every winter fills a whole
volume; and nevertheless, every one who pays his annual fee of five
dollars is entitled to take part in all of them. Every day from morning
to night he may listen to lectures by men who are more or less well
known throughout the country, and who come specially to New York in
order to give their short courses of some six lectures.

The highest undertaking of this sort is the Lowell Institute in Boston.
In 1838, after a tour through Egypt, John A. Lowell added a codicil to
his will, whereby he gave half of his large income for the free,
popular, scientific instruction of his native town. The plan that has
been followed for sixty years is of inviting every winter eight or ten
of the most distinguished thinkers and investigators in America and
England to give cycles of six or twelve connected lectures. The
plentiful means of this foundation have made it possible to bring in the
really most important men; and on the other hand, for just this reason
an invitation to deliver the Lowell Lectures has come to be esteemed a
high honour in the English-speaking world. Men like Lyell and Tyndall
and many others have come across the ocean; even Agassiz, the well-known
geologist, came to the New World first as a Lowell lecturer, and then
later settled at Harvard University. Up to this time some five thousand
lectures have been held before large audiences by this institute. The
great advantage which this has been to the population of Boston can in
no wise be estimated, nor can it ever be known how much this influence
has done for the spirit of self-perfection in New England.

In a certain sense, however, we have already overstepped the field of
popular education. The high standard of the Lowell Institute and the
position of its speakers have brought it about that almost every course
has been an original exposition of new scientific lines of thought.
While the other popular courses have got their material second-hand, or
have been at least for the speaker a repetition of his habitual
discourses to students, in the Lowell Institute the results of new
investigations have been the main thing. And so we have come already to
the domain of productive science, of which we shall have later to treat.

One who looks somewhat more deeply will realize that, outside the Lowell
Institute, there is no thought in by far the larger part of these
lectures and readings, of original scientific endeavour. And the
question inevitably comes up, whether the intellectual life of the
country does not lose too much of its strength because the members of
the community who should be especially devoted to intellectual
production are enticed in so many different ways into the paths of mere
reproduction. To be sure, it is never a professional duty with these
men, but the temptation is so great as to overcome the latent resistance
of even the best of them. There are a few, it is true, who see their
highest goal in these popular and artistic expositions of their
department of science; and a few who feel that their highest call, their
most serious life-work, is to bear science philanthropically out to the
masses. But it is different with most of them. Many like the rewards; it
is such an easy way for the ready speaker, perhaps, of doubling his
salary from the university: and especially the younger men whose income
is small, find it hard to resist the temptation, although just they are
the ones who ought to give all their free energy to becoming proficient
in special lines of investigation. Yet even this is not the chief
motive. In countless cases where any financial return to the speaker is
out of the question, the love of rhetoric exerts a similar temptation.
The chief motive, doubtless, is that the American popular opinion is so
extraordinarily influenced by the spoken word, and at the same time
popular eloquence is spread abroad so widely by the press, that not only
a mere passing reputation, but also a strong and lasting influence on
the thought of the people, can most readily be gotten in this way.

And so everything works together to bring a large amount of intellectual
energy into the service of the people. The individual is hardly able to
resist the temptation; and certainly very many thus harm seriously their
best energies. Their popularization of knowledge diminishes their own
scholarship. They grow adapted to half-educated audiences; their
pleasure and capacity for the highest sort of scientific work are
weakened by the seductive applause which follows on every pretty turn of
thought, and by the deep effect of superficial arguments which avoid and
conceal all the real difficulties. This is most especially true of that
merely mechanical repetition which is encouraged by the possession of a
lecture manuscript. If it is true that Wendell Phillips repeated his
speech on the Lost Arts two thousand times, it was doubtless a unique
case, and is hardly possible to-day. Nevertheless, to-day we find most
regrettably frequent repetitions; and a few competent intellects have
entirely abandoned their activities on regular academic lines to travel
through the country on lecture tours. For instance, a brilliant
historian like John Fiske, would undoubtedly have accomplished much more
of permanent importance if he had not written every one of his books, in
the first instance, as a set of lectures which he delivered before some
dozen mixed audiences.

On the other hand, we must not suppose that these lectures before
educational institutions are all hastily and mechanically produced. If
the lectures were so trivial their preparation would demand little
energy, and their delivery would much less satisfy the ambition of those
who write them; and so, on both accounts, they would be much less
dangerous for the highest productiveness of their authors. The level is
really extremely high. Even the audience of the smallest town is rather
pampered; it demands the most finished personal address and a certain
tinge of individuality in the exposition. And so even this form of
production redounds somewhat to the intellectual life of the nation. The
often repeated attempt to depict some phase of reality, uniquely and
completely in a one-hour lecture, or to elucidate a problem in such a
short time, leads necessarily to a mastery in the art of the essay.
Success in this line is made easier by the marked feeling for form which
the American possesses. In a surprisingly large number of American
books, the chapters read like well-rounded and complete addresses. The
book is really a succession of essays, and if one looks more carefully,
one will often discover that each one was obviously first thought out as
a lecture. Thus the entire system of popular education by means of
lectures has worked, beyond doubt, harmfully on creative production, but
favourably on the development of artistic form in scientific exposition,
on the art of essay, and on the popular dissemination of natural and
social sciences and of history and economics most of all.

If one wished to push the inquiry further, and to ask whether these
advantages outweigh the disadvantages, the American would decline to
discuss the problem within these limits; since the prime factor, which
is the effect on the masses who are seeking cultivation, would be left
out of account. The work of the scholar is not to be estimated solely
with reference to science or to its practical effects, but always with
reference to the people’s need for self-perfection. And even if pure
science in its higher soarings were to suffer thereby, the American
would say that in science, as everywhere else, it is not a question of
brilliant achievements, but of moral values. For the totality of the
nation, he would say, it is morally better to bring serious intellectual
awakenings into every quiet corner of the land, than to inscribe a few
great achievements on the tablets of fame. Such is the sacrifice which
democracy demands. And yet to-day the pendulum begins very slowly to
swing back. A certain division of labour is creeping in whereby
productive and reproductive activities are more clearly distinguished,
and the best intellectual energies are reserved for the highest sort of
work, and saved from being wasted on merely trivial tasks.

But even the effect on the masses has not been wholly favourable. We
have seen how superficiality has been greatly encouraged. It is, indeed,
an artificial feeding-ground for that immodesty which we see to spring
up so readily in a political democracy, and which gives out its opinion
on all questions without being really informed. To be sure, there is no
lack of admiration for what is great; on the contrary, such admiration
becomes often hysterical. But since it is not based on any sufficient
knowledge, it remains after all undiscriminating; the man who admires
without understanding, forms a judgment where he should decline to take
any attitude at all. It may be, indeed, that the village population
under the influence of the last lecture course is talking about Cromwell
and Elizabeth instead of about the last village scandal; but if the way
in which it talks has not been modified, one cannot say that a change of
topic signifies any elevation of standard. And if, indeed, the village
is still to gossip, it will seem to many more modest and more amiable if
it gossips about some indifferent neighbour, and not about Cromwell.

On the other hand, we must not fail to recognize that, especially in the
large institutions, as the Chautauquas, and in the university extension
courses and the summer schools, everything possible is done to escape
this constant danger. In the first place, the single lectures are very
much discouraged, and a course of six to twenty lectures rather is given
on a single topic; then the written examinations, with their
certificates, and finally, the constant guidance in private reading have
their due effect. Indeed, the smallest women’s club is particular to put
before its members the very best books which relate to the subjects of
their lectures; and smaller groups are generally formed to study
carefully through together some rather large treatise.

The total amount of actual instruction and intellectual inspiration
coming to the people outside of the schools, is, in these ways,
immeasurable. And the disadvantages of superficiality are somewhat
outweighed by a great increase and enrichment of personality. Of course,
one could ask whether this traditional way is really the shortest to its
goal. Some may think that the same expenditure of time and energy would
give a better result if it were made on a book rather than on a course
of lectures. Yet the one does not exclude the other. Hearing the lecture
incites to the reading of the book; and nowhere is more reading done
than in the United States. There is one other different and quite
important factor in the situation. The man who reads is isolated, and
any personal influence is suppressed. At a lecture, on the other hand,
the peculiarly personal element is brought to the front, both in the
speaker and in the hearer—the spoken word touches so much more
immediately and vitally than the printed word, and gives to thought an
individual colouring. Most of all, the listener is much more personally
appealed to than the reader; his very presence in the hall is a public
announcement of his participation. He feels himself called, with the
other hearers, to a common task. And in this way a moral motive is added
to the intellectual. They both work together to fill the life of every
man with the desire for culture. Perchance the impersonal book may
better satisfy the personal desire for self-perfection, and yet the
lecture will be more apt to keep it alive and strengthen it as a force
in character and in life.

It is indifferent whether this system of popular education, these
lectures before the public, has really brought with it the greatest
possible culture and enlightenment. It is at least clear that they have
spread everywhere the most profound desire for culture and
enlightenment, and for this reason they have been the necessary system
for a people so informed with the spirit of individual self-perfection.

                            CHAPTER SIXTEEN
                           _The Universities_

When American industry began, a short time ago, to disturb European
circles, people very much exaggerated the danger, because the event was
so entirely unexpected. The “American peril” was at the door before any
one knew about it, or even supposed that America really possessed an
industry which amounted to anything. It will not be long before Europe
will experience a like surprise in the intellectual sphere. A great work
will certainly appear, as if accomplished in a moment, before any one
supposes that America so much as dreams of science and investigation. At
the time, people tardily said to themselves that such industry could
only have been built on firm rock, and never would have been able to
spring up if American economic life had really been founded, as was then
supposed, on avarice and corruption. And similarly, in the intellectual
sphere, people will have to trace things back, and say in retrospect
that such achievements could not be brought forth suddenly, and that
serious and competent scientific work throughout the country must really
have gone before. It is not here, in this world of intellectual labour,
as in the economic world; there is no question of threatening rivalry,
there is no scientific competition; there is nothing but co-operation.
And yet even here no people can, without danger to its own achievements,
afford to ignore what another nation has done. The sooner that Europe,
and in particular Germany, acquaints itself with the intellectual life
of America, so much more organically and profitably the future labour in
common will develop. For any one who knows the real situation can
already realize, without the gift of prophecy, that in science more than
in other spheres the future will belong to these two countries.

On the part of Germany to-day there prevails an almost discouraging
ignorance of everything which pertains to American universities; and we
may say, at once, that if we speak of science we shall refer to nothing
but the universities. As in Germany, so it is in the United States, in
sharp and notable contrast to France and England, that the academic
teacher is the real priest of science. In England and France, it is not
customary for the great investigator to be at the same time the daily
teacher of youth. In America and Germany he is exactly this. America
has, to be sure, historians and national economists like Rhodes, Lodge,
Roosevelt, Schouler, and others who are outside of academic circles; and
very many lawyers, doctors and preachers, who are scientifically
productive; and her most conspicuous physicists, so far as reputation
goes, like Edison, Bell, Tesla, and so many others, are advancing
science indirectly through their discoveries and inventions. Strictly
speaking, the officials of the scientific institutions at Washington are
likewise outside of the universities, and the greatest intellectual
efficiency has always been found among these men. Nevertheless, it
remains true that on the whole, the scientific life of the nation goes
on in the universities, and that the academic instruction conveyed there
is the most powerful source of strength to the entire American people.

The German still has no confidence in American science, is fond of
dwelling on the amusing newspaper reports of Western “universities”
which are often equivalent to a German Sekunda, or on those
extraordinary conditions which prevailed “a short time ago” in the study
of medicine. This “short time ago” means, however, in the intellectual
life of Germany an entirely different length of time from that which it
means in the New World. One is almost tempted to compare the
intellectual development of Germany and America by epochs in order to
get a proper means of comparing intervals of time in these respective
countries. The primitive times of the Germans, from the days of Tacitus
down to their conversion to Christianity under Charlemagne in about the
year 800, would correspond, then, to the one hundred and fifty years
from the discovery of America up to the beginning of the Puritan era in
1630. The next period would embrace in Germany seven hundred years
more—up to the time when Germany freed itself from Rome. In America this
would be again a century and a half, up to 1776, when the nation freed
itself from England. Then follow after the Reformation during a period
of three hundred years, the Thirty Years’ War, the Renaissance of the
eighteenth century, the downfall of the Napoleonic influence, and,
finally, the war for freedom. And once again the corresponding intervals
on this side of the ocean have been of very much shorter duration;
firstly years of war, then the æsthetic rise in the middle of the
century, then the sufferings of the Civil War, the period of
reconstruction, and, finally, peace. After 1813 a new period commences,
which ends in 1870 with the German amalgamation into a nation.
Historically incomparable with Germany’s great war against the French,
America had in 1898 an insignificant war with Spain; but for the
national consciousness of the Americans it played, perhaps, no less
important a rôle. In fact, there began at that time probably a certain
culmination in American intellectual development which in its six years
is comparable in effect with what the Germans went through during
several decades after the Franco-Prussian War. Indeed, all that happened
in America a hundred years ago is felt to lie as far back as the events
which took place in Germany three hundred years ago; and, in matters of
higher education and scientific research, conditions have probably
changed more in the last ten years than they have changed during fifty
years in Germany.

The many false ideas, however, depend for credence, so far as they have
any foundation, not alone on the reports of the previous condition of
things, but also on misleading accounts of the conditions to-day. For
even the best-intentioned narrator is very apt to be misled, because he
finds it so hard to free himself from ordinary German conceptions. The
position of the German schools of higher education is so easily grasped,
while that in America is so complicated, that the German is always
tempted to bring clearness and order into what he sees as confusion, by
forcing it into the simple scheme to which he is accustomed, and thus to
misunderstand it.

The German traveller is certain to start from the distinction so
familiar to him between the Gymnasium and the university with four
faculties, and he always contents himself with making but one inquiry:
“Is this institution a university with four faculties?” And when he is
told that it is not, he is convinced to his entire satisfaction that it
is therefore only a Gymnasium. Indeed, very many of the educated Germans
who have lived in America for some decades would still know no better;
and, nevertheless, the conditions are really not complicated until one
tries to make them fit into this abstract German scheme. The principle
of gradations which is manifest in all American institutions is in
itself fully as simple as the German principle of sharp demarcations.
Most foreigners do not even go so far as to ask whether a given
institution is a university. They are quite content to find out whether
the word university is a part of its name. If they then ascertain from
the catalogue that the studies are about the same as those which are
drilled into the pupils of a Sekunda, they can attest the shameful fact:
“There are no universities in America to be in any wise compared with
the German universities.”

In the first place, it should be said that the word “university” is not
used in America in the same sense as in Germany, but is almost
completely interchangeable with the word “college,” as a rather
colorless addition to the proper name of any institution whatsoever, so
long only as its curriculum goes beyond that of the high school, and so
long also as it is not exclusively designed to train ministers of the
gospel, doctors, or lawyers. A higher school for medical instruction is
called a “medical school,” and there are similarly “law schools” and
“divinity schools,” whereas, in the college or university, as the term
is generally used, these three subjects are not taught. College is the
older word, and since the institutions in the East are in general the
older ones, the name college has been and still is in that region the
more common. But in the West, where in general the institutions are on a
considerably lower level, the newer name of university is the more
usual. No confusion necessarily arises from this, since the institutions
which are styled now college and now university represent countless
gradations, and the general term is without special significance. No one
would think of saying that when he was young he went to a university,
any more than he would say that on a journey he visited a city. In order
to make the statement entirely clear, he would add the explicit name of
the institution. Every specialist knows that a man who has spent four
years in Taylor University in Indiana or at Blackburn University in
Illinois, or at Leland University in Louisiana, or at other similar
“universities,” will not be nearly so well educated as a man who has
been to Yale College or Princeton College or Columbia College. The
proper name is the only significant designation, and the addition of
“college” or “university” tells nothing.

Out of this circumstance there has independently developed, in recent
years in pedagogical circles, a second sense for the word “university.”
By “university” there is coming to be understood an institution which is
not only a college or a university in the old sense, but which
furthermore has various professional schools. Even in this sense of the
word, it is not exactly the same as the German conception, since such an
institution includes the college, whereas there is nothing in Germany
which would correspond to this collegiate department. Moreover, here
belongs also a part of what the Germans have only in the technological
institute. Finally, there is one more usage which arises in a way from a
confusion of the two that we have mentioned. Some persons are inclined
to mean by “university” a first-class college, and by “college” an
institution of an inferior standard; and so, finally, the proper name of
the institution is the only thing to go by, and the entire higher system
of education in the country can be understood only in this way.

Therefore, we shall abstract from the designations of these
institutions, and consider only what they really are. We have before us
the fact that hundreds of higher institutions of learning exist without
any sharp demarcation between them; that is, they form a closely graded
scale, commencing with secondary schools and leading up to universities,
of which some are in many respects comparable with the best institutions
of Germany. In the second place, the groupings of the studies in these
institutions are entirely different from those which prevail in Germany,
especially owing to the fact that emphasis is laid on the college, which
Germany does not have. It could not be different; and this condition is,
in fact, the patent of American success. If we try to understand the
conditions of to-day from those of yesterday, the real unity of this
system comes out sharply. What was, then, we have to ask, the national
need for higher instruction at the time when these states organized
themselves into one nation?

In the first place, the people had to have preachers, while it was
clear, nevertheless, that the state, and therefore the entire political
community, was independent of any church, and must never show any favour
to one sect over another. And so it became the duty of each separate
sect to prepare its own preachers for their religious careers as well or
as badly as it was able. The people, again, had to have lawyers and
judges. Now the judges, in accordance with the democratic spirit, were
elected from the people, and every man had the right to plead his own
case in court:—so that if any man proposed to educate and prepare
himself to plead other men’s cases for them, it was his own business to
give himself the proper education and not the business of the community.
He had to become an apprentice under experienced attorneys, and the
community had not to concern itself in the matter, nor even to see to it
that such technical preparation was grounded on real learning.
School-teachers were necessary, but in order to satisfy the demands of
the times it was hardly necessary for the teacher to go in his own
studies very much beyond the members of his classes. A few more years of
training than could be had in the public schools was desirable, but
there was no thought of scholarship or science. On the lowest level of
all, a hundred years ago, stood the science of medicine. It was a purely
practical occupation, of which anybody might learn the technique without
any special training. He might be an apprentice with some older
physician, or he might pick it up in a number of other ways.

As soon as we have understood the early conditions in this way, we can
see at once how they would have further to develop. It is obvious that
in their own interests the sects would have to found schools for
preachers. The administrators of justice would of course consult
together and found schools of law, in which every man who paid his
tuition might be prepared for the legal career. Doctors would have to
come together and found medical schools which, once more, every one with
a public school training would be free to attend. Finally, the larger
communities would feel the necessity of having schools for training
their teachers. In all this the principle of social selection would have
to enter in at once. Since there were no formal provisions which might
prescribe and fix standards of excellence, so everything would be
regulated by the laws of supply and demand. The schools which could
furnish successful lawyers, doctors, teachers, and clergymen would
become prosperous, while the others would lead a modest existence or
perhaps disappear. It would not be, however, merely a question of the
good or bad schools, but of schools having entirely different standards,
and these adapted to purely local conditions. The older states would, of
course, demand better things than the new pioneer states; thickly
settled localities would fix higher requirements than rural districts;
rich districts higher than poor. In this way some schools would have a
longer course of study than others, and some schools demand more
previous training as a condition of entrance than others. So it would
soon come to mean nothing to say simply that one had taken the legal, or
medical, or theological course, as the one school might offer a four
years’ course and the other a course of two years, and the one,
moreover, might demand college training as preparation, and the other
merely a grammar-school education. Every school has its own name, and
this name is the only thing which characterizes its standard of
excellence. In this way there is no harm at all if there are three or
four medical schools in one city, and if their several diplomas of
graduation are of entirely different value.

What is the result of this? It is a threefold one. In the first place,
popular initiative is stimulated to the utmost, and every person and
every institution is encouraged to do its best. There are no formal
regulations to hamper enterprising impulses, to keep back certain more
advanced regions, or to approve mediocrity with an artificial seal of
authority. In the second place, technical education is able to adapt
itself thoroughly to all the untold local factors, and to give to every
region such schools of higher training as it needs, without pulling down
any more advanced sections of the country to an artificially mediocre
level more adapted to the whole country. In the third place, the free
competition between the different institutions insures their ceaseless
progress. There are no hard and fixed boundary lines, and whatsoever
does not advance surely recedes; that which leads to-day is surpassed
to-morrow if it does not adapt itself to the latest requirements. This
is true both as regards the quality of the teachers and their means of
instruction, as regards the length of the course, and more especially
the conditions of entrance. These last have steadily grown throughout
the country. Fifty years ago the very best institutions in the most
advanced portions of the country demanded no more for entrance than the
professional schools of third class situated in more rural regions
demand to-day. And this tendency goes steadily onward day by day. If
there were any great departures made, the institutions would be
disintegrated; the schools which prepare pupils would not be able
suddenly to come up to new requirements, and therefore few scholars
would be able to prepare for greatly modified entrance examinations. In
this way, between the conservative holding to historic traditions and
the striving to progress and to exceed other institutions by the highest
possible efficiency, a compromise is brought about which results in a
gradual but not over-hasty improvement.

We have so far entirely left out of account the state. We can speak here
only of the individual state. The country as a whole has as little to do
with higher education as with lower. But the single state has, in fact,
a significant task—indeed, a double one. Since it aims at no monopoly,
but rather gives the freest play to individual initiative, we have
recognized the fundamental principle that restrictions are placed
nowhere. On the other hand, it becomes the duty of the state to lend a
helping hand wherever private activities have been found insufficient.
This can happen in two ways: either the state may help to support
private institutions which already exist, or it may establish new ones
of its own, which in that case offer free tuition to the sons and
daughters of all taxpayers. These so-called state universities are, in a
way, the crowning feature of the free public school system. Wherever
they exist, the sons of farmers have the advantage of free instruction
from the kindergarten to the degree of doctor of philosophy.

Now private initiative is weakest where the population is poor or stands
on a low level of culture, so that few can be found to contribute
sufficient funds to support good institutions, and at the same time the
rich citizens of these less advanced states prefer to send their
children to the universities of the most advanced states. The result is,
and this is what is hardest for the foreigner to understand, that the
higher institutions of learning which are subsidized by the state stand
for a grade of culture inferior to that of the private institutions, and
that not only the leading universities, like Harvard, Columbia, Johns
Hopkins, Yale, Chicago, Cornell, and Stanford, carry on their work
without the help of the state, but also that the leading Eastern States
pay out much less for higher instruction than do the Western. The State
of Massachusetts, which stands at the head in matters of education, does
not give a cent to its universities, while Ohio entirely supports the
Ohio State University and gives aid to six other institutions.

The second task of the states in educational matters is shared alike by
all of them; the state supervises all instruction, and, more than that,
the state legislature confers on the individual institution the right to
award grades, diplomas, and degrees to its students. No institution may
change its organization without a civil permit. As culture has advanced
the state has found it necessary to make the requirements in the various
professional schools rather high. In practice, once more, a continual
compromise has been necessary between the need to advance and the desire
to stay, by traditions which have been proved and tried and found
practical. Here, once again, any universal scheme of organization would
have destroyed everything. If a high standard had been fixed it would
have hindered private initiative, and given a set-back to Southern and
Western states and robbed them of the impulses to development. A lower
universal standard, on the other hand, would have impeded the advance of
the more progressive portions of the country. Therefore the various
state governments have taken a happy middle position in these matters,
and their responsibility for the separate institutions has been made
even less complete in that the degrees of these institutions carry in
themselves no actual rights. Every state has its own laws for the
admission of a lawyer to its bar, or to the public practice of medicine,
and it is only to a small degree that the diplomas of professional
schools are recognized as equivalent to a state examination.

The history of the professional schools for lawyers, ministers,
teachers, and physicians in America is by no means the history of the
universities. We have so far left out of account the college, which is
the nucleus of American education. Let us now go back to it. We saw in
the beginning of the development of these states a social community in
which preparation for the professions of teaching, preaching, law or
medicine implied a technical and specialized training, which every one
could obtain for himself without any considerable preparation. There was
no thought of a broad, liberal education. Now, to be sure, the level of
scholarship required for entrance into the professional schools has
steadily risen, the duration and character of the instruction has been
steadily improved; but even to-day the impression has not faded from the
public consciousness, and is indeed favoured by the great differences in
merit between the special schools, that such a practical introduction to
the treatment of disease, to court procedure, the mastery of technical
problems, or to the art of teaching, does not in itself develop educated
men. All this is specialized professional training, which no more
broadens the mind than would the professional preparation for the
calling of the merchant or manufacturer or captain. Whether a man who is
prepared for his special career is also an educated man, depends on the
sort of general culture that he has become familiar with. It is thought
important for a man to have had a liberal education before entering the
commercial house or the medical school, but it is felt to be indifferent
whether he has learned his profession at the stock exchange or at the

The European will find it hard to follow this trend of thought. In
Europe the highest institutions of learning are so closely allied to the
learned professions, and these themselves have historically developed so
completely from the learned studies, that professional erudition and
general culture are well-nigh identical. And the general system of
distinctions and merits favours in every way the learned professions.
How much of this, however, springs out of special conditions may be
seen, for instance, from the fact that in Germany an equal social
position is given to the officer of the army and to the scholar. Even
the American is, in his way, not quite consistent, in so far as he has
at all times honoured the profession of the ministry with a degree of
esteem that is independent of the previous preparation which the
minister had before entering his theological school. This fact has come
from the leading position which the clergymen held in the American
colonial days, and the close relation which exists between the study of
theology and general philosophy.

The fact that by chance one had taken the profession of law, or
teaching, or medicine, did not exalt one in the eyes of one’s
contemporaries above the great mass of average citizens who went about
their honest business. The separation of those who were called to social
leadership was seen to require, therefore, some principle which should
be different from any professional training. At this point we come on
yet another historical factor. The nation grew step for step with its
commercial activities and undertakings. So long as it was a question of
gaining and developing new territory, the highest talent, the best
strength and proudest personalities entered the service of this
nationally significant work. It was a matter of course that no secondary
position in society should be ascribed to these captains of commerce and
of industry. The highest degree of culture which they were able to
attain necessarily fixed the standard of culture for the whole
community; and, therefore, the traditional concept of the gentleman as
the man of liberal culture and refinement came to have that great social
significance which was reserved in Germany for the learned professions.

In its outer form, the education of such a gentleman was borrowed from
England. It was a four years’ course coming after the high school, and
laying special stress on the classical languages, philosophy, and
mathematics—a course which, up to the early twenties, kept a young man
in contact with the fine arts and the sciences, with no thought for the
practical earning of a livelihood; which, therefore, kept him four years
longer from the tumult of the world, and in an ideal community of men
who were doing as he was doing; which developed him in work, in sport,
in morals and social address. Such was the tradition; the institution
was called a college after the English precedent. Any man who went to
college belonged to the educated class, and it was indifferent what
profession he took up; no studies of the professional school were able
to replace a college education. Now, it necessarily happened that the
endeavour to have students enter the professional schools with as
thorough preparation as possible led eventually to demand of every one
who undertook a professional course the complete college education. In
fact, this last state of development is already reached in the best
institutions of America. For instance, in Harvard and in Johns Hopkins,
the diploma of a four years’ college course is demanded for entrance
into the legal, medical, or theological faculty. But in popular opinion
the dividing line between common and superior education is still the
line between school and college, and not, as in Germany, between liberal
and technical institutions of learning. One who has successfully passed
through college becomes a graduate, a gentleman of distinction; he has
the degree of bachelor of arts, and those who have this degree are
understood to have had a higher education.

This whole complex of relations is reflected within the college itself.
It is supposed to be a four years’ course which comes after the high
school, and we have seen that the high school itself has no fixed
standard of instruction. The small prairie college may be no better than
the Tertia or Sekunda of a German Realschule, while the large and
influential colleges are certainly not at all to be compared simply with
German schools, but rather with the German Prima of a Gymnasium,
together with the first two or three semesters in the philosophical
faculty of a university. Between these extremes there is a long, sliding
scale, represented by over six hundred colleges. We must now bear in
mind that the college was meant to be the higher school for the general
cultivation of gentlemen. Of course, from the outset this idealistic
demand was not free from utilitarian considerations; the same
instruction could well be utilized as the most appropriate practical
training of the school-teacher, and if so, the college becomes
secondarily a sort of technical school for pedagogues. But, then, in the
same way as the entrance into legal and medical faculties was gradually
made more difficult, until now the best of these schools demand
collegiate preparation, so also did the training school for teachers
necessarily become of more and more professional character, until it
gradually quite outgrew the college. The culmination is a philosophical
faculty which, from its side, presupposes the college, and which,
therefore, takes the student about where a German student enters his
fourth semester—a technical school for specialized critical science
laying main stress on seminaries, laboratories, and lectures for
advanced students. Such a continuation of the college study beyond the
time of college—that is, for those who have been graduated from
college—is called a graduate school, and its goal is the degree of
doctor of philosophy. The graduate school is in this way parallel with
the law, medical, or divinity school, which likewise presuppose that
their students have been graduated from college.

The utilitarian element inevitably affects the college from another
side. A college of the higher type will not be a school with a rigid
curriculum, but will adapt itself more or less to the individuality of
its students. If it is really to give the most it can, it must, at least
during the last years of the college course, be somewhat like a
philosophical faculty, and allow some selection among the various
studies:—so that every man can best perfect his peculiar talent and can
satisfy his inclinations for one or other sort of learning. So soon,
now, as such academic freedom has been instituted, it is very liable to
be used for utilitarian purposes. The future doctor and the future
lawyer in their election of college studies will have the professional
school already in mind, and will be preparing themselves for their
professional studies. The lawyer will probably study more history, the
doctor will study biology, the theologian languages, the future
manufacturer may study physics, the banker political economy, and the
politician will take up government. And so the ideal training school for
gentlemen will not be merely a place for liberal education, but at the
same time will provide its own sort of untechnical professional

Inasmuch as everything really technical is still excluded, and the
majority of college students even to-day come for nothing more than a
liberal education, it remains true that the college is first of all a
place for the development and refinement of personal character; a place
in which the young American spends the richest and happiest years of his
life, where he forms his friendships and intellectual preferences which
are to last throughout his life, and where the narrow confines of school
life are outgrown and the confines of professional education not yet
begun; where, in short, everything is broad and free and sunny. For the
American the attraction of academic life is wholly centred in the
college; the college student is the only one who lives the true student
life. Those who study in the four professional faculties are comparable
rather to the German medical students of the last clinical
semesters—sedate, semi-professional men. The college is the soul of the
university. The college is to-day, more than ever, the soul of the whole

We have to mention one more factor, and we shall have brought together
all which are of prime importance. We have seen that the professional
and the collegiate schools had at the outset different points of view,
and were, in fact, entirely independent. It was inevitable that as they
developed they should come into closer and closer relations. The name of
the college remained during this development the general designation.
Special faculties have grouped themselves about the college, while a
common administration keeps them together. There are certain local
difficulties in this. According to the original idea, a college ought to
be in a small, rural, and attractively situated spot. The young man
should be removed from ordinary conditions; and as he goes to Jena,
Marburg, and Göttingen, so he should go to Princeton or New Haven, or
Palo Alto, in order to be away from large cities in a little academic
world which is inspired only by the glory of famous teachers and by the
youthful happiness of many student generations. A medical or law school,
on the other hand, belongs, according to American tradition, in some
large city, where there is a plenty of clinical material at hand, and
where great attorneys are in contact with the courts. It so happened
that the college, as it grew up into a complete university, was
especially favoured if it happened to be in the vicinity of a large
city, like Harvard College in Cambridge, which had all the attractions
of rural quiet and nevertheless was separated from the large city of
Boston only by the Charles River bridge. In later times, to be sure,
since the idyllic side of college life is everywhere on the wane, and
the outward equipment, especially of laboratories, libraries, etc., has
everywhere to grow, it is a noticeable advantage for even collegiate
prosperity to have the resources of a large city at hand. And,
therefore, the institutions in these cities, like New York, Baltimore,
Chicago, and San Francisco, develop more rapidly than many colleges
which were once famous but which lie in more isolated places.

At the head of the administration there is always a president, a man
whose functions are something between those of a Rektor and a
Kultus-Minister, most nearly, perhaps, comparable with a Kurator, and
yet much more independent, much more dictatorial. The direction of the
university is actually concentrated in his person, and the rise or fall
of the institution is in large measure dependent on his official
leadership. In olden times the president was almost always a theologian,
and at the same time was apt to be professor in moral philosophy. This
is true to-day of none but small country colleges, and even there the
Puritan tradition disappears as financial and administrative problems
come to be important. The large universities have lately come almost
always to place a professor of the philosophical faculty at their head.
Almost invariably these are men of liberal endowments. Mostly they are
men of wide outlook, and only such men are fit for these positions,
which belong to the most influential and important in the country. The
opinions of men like Eliot of Harvard, Hadley of Yale, Butler of
Columbia, Shurman of Cornell, Remsen of Johns Hopkins, Wheeler of
California, Harper of Chicago, Jordan of Leland Stanford, Wilson of
Princeton, and of many others, are respected and sought on all questions
of public life, even in matters extending far beyond education.

The university president is elected for a life term by the
administrative council—a deliberative body of men who, without
emoluments, serve the destinies of the university, and in a certain
sense are the congress of the university as compared with the president.
They confirm appointments, regulate expenditures, and theoretically
conduct all external business for the university, although practically
they follow in large part the recommendations of the faculties. The
teaching body is composed everywhere of professors, assistant
professors, and instructors. All these receive a fixed stipend. There
are no such things as private tuition fees, and unsalaried teachers,
like the German Privatdocenten, are virtually unknown. The instruction
consists, in general, of courses lasting through a year and not a
semester. The academic year begins, in most cases, at the end of
September and closes at the end of June.

During his four years’ college course the student prefers to remain true
to some one college. If this is a small institution, he is very apt, on
being graduated, to attend some higher institution. Even the students in
professional schools generally come back year after year to the same
school till they finish their studies. It is only in the graduate
school—that is, the German philosophical faculty—that migration after
the German manner has come in fashion; here, in fact, the student
frequently studies one year here and one year there, in order to hear
the best specialists in his science. Except in the state institutions of
the West, the student pays a round sum for the year; in the larger
institutions from one hundred to one hundred and fifty dollars. In the
smaller colleges the four years’ course of study is almost wholly
prescribed, and only in the final year is there a certain freedom of
choice. The higher the college stands in the matter of scholarship, so
much the more its lecture programme approaches that of a university; and
in the foremost colleges the student is from the very beginning almost
entirely free in his selection of studies.

A freedom in electing between study and laziness is less known. The
student may elect his own lectures; he must, however, attend at least a
certain number of these, and must generally show in a semi-annual
examination that he has spent his time to some purpose. The examinations
at the end of the special courses are in the college substituted for a
final examination. Any man receives a degree who has passed the written
examinations in a certain number of courses. The examinations concern
not only what has actually been said in the lectures, but at the same
time try to bring out how much the student has learned outside in the
way of reading text-books and searching into literature. Originally the
students roomed in college buildings, but with the growth of these
institutions this factor of college life has declined. In the larger
universities the student is, in matters of his daily life, as free as
the German; but dwelling in college dormitories still remains the most
popular mode of living, since it lends a social attraction to academic

To go over from this general plan to a more concrete presentation, we
may perhaps sketch briefly a picture of Harvard College, the oldest and
largest academy in the country. The colony of Massachusetts established
in 1636 a little college in the vicinity of the newly founded city of
Boston. The place was called Cambridge in commemoration of the English
college in which some of the colonists had received their education.
When in 1638 a young English minister, John Harvard, left this little
academy half his fortune, it was decided to name the college for its
first benefactor. The state had given £400, John Harvard about £800. The
school building was one little structure, the number of students was
very small, and there were a few clergymen for teachers. On the same
spot to-day stands Harvard University, like a little city within a city,
with fifty ample buildings, with 550 members of the teaching staff, over
five thousand students, with a regular annual budget of a million and a
half dollars, and in the enjoyment of bequests which add year by year
millions to its regular endowments.

This growth has been constant, outwardly and inwardly; and it has grown
in power and in freedom in a way that well befits the spirit of American
institutions. Since the colonial régime of the seventeenth century gave
to the new institution a deliberative body of seven men—the so-called
Corporation—this body has perpetuated itself without interruption down
to the present time by its own vote, and without changing any principle
of its constitution has developed the home of Puritanism into the
theatre of the freest investigation, and the school into a great
university of the world.

Now, as then, there stands at the head this body of seven members, each
of whom is elected for life. To belong to this is esteemed a high
honour. Beside these, there is the board of overseers of thirty members,
elected by the graduates from among their own number. Five men are
elected every June to hold office for six years in this advisory
council. Every Harvard man, five years after he has received his degree
of bachelor, has the right to vote. Every appointment and all policies
of the university must be confirmed by this board of overseers. Only the
best sons of the alma mater are elected to this body. Thus the
university administration has an upper and lower house, and it is clear
that with such closely knit internal organization the destiny of the
university is better guarded than it would be if appointments and
expenditures were dependent on the caprice and political intrigues of
the party politicians in the state legislature. Just on this account
Harvard has declined, for almost a hundred years, all aid from the
state; although this was once customary. On the other hand, it would be
a mistake to suppose that, say in contrast with Germany, this
self-government of the university implies any greater administrative
rights for the professors. The German professors have much more
administrative influence than their colleagues in America. If, indeed,
the advice of the professors in matters of new appointments or
promotions is important, nevertheless the administrative bodies are in
no wise officially bound to follow the recommendations of the faculty.

The president of the university is Charles W. Eliot, the most
distinguished and influential personality in the whole intellectual life
of America. Eliot comes from an old Puritan family of New England. He
was a professor of chemistry in his thirty-fifth year; and his essays on
methods of instruction, together with his talents for organization, had
awakened considerable attention, when the overseers, in spite of lively
protestations from various sides, were prompted by keen insight in the
year 1869 to call him to this high office. It would be an exaggeration
to say that the tremendous growth of Harvard in the last three decades
is wholly the work of Eliot; for this development is, first of all, the
result of that remarkable progress which the intellectual life of the
whole land has undergone. But the fact that Harvard during all this time
has kept in the very front rank among all academic institutions is
certainly due to the efforts of President Eliot; and once again, if the
progress at Harvard has resulted in part from the scientific awakening
of the whole country, this national movement was itself in no small
measure the work of the same man. His influence has extended out beyond
the boundaries of New England and far beyond all university circles, and
has made itself felt in the whole educational life of the country. He
was never a man after the taste of the masses; his quiet and
distinguished reserve are too cool and deliberate. And if to-day, on
great occasions, he is generally the most important speaker, this is
really a triumph for clear and solid thought over the mere tricks of
blatancy and rhetoric. Throughout the country he is known as the
incomparable master of short and pregnant English.

His life work has contained nothing of the spasmodic; nor have his
reforms been in any case sudden ones. To whatever has been necessary he
has consecrated his patient energy, going fearlessly toward the goal
which he recognized as right, and moving slowly and surely forward. Year
by year he has exerted an influence on the immediate circles of his
community, and so indirectly on the whole land, to bring up the
conditions for entrance into college and professional schools until at
the present time all the special faculties of Harvard demand as an
entrance requirement a complete college course. He has made Harvard
College over into a modern academy, in which every student is entirely
free to select the course of studies which he desires, and has
introduced through the entire university and for all time, the spirit of
impartial investigation. Even the theological faculty has grown under
his influence from a sectarian institution of the Unitarian Church into
a non-sectarian Christian institution in which future preachers of every
sect are able to obtain their preliminary training. And this
indefatigable innovator is to-day, as he now has completed his
seventieth year, pressing forward with youthful energies to new goals.
Just as he has introduced into the college the opportunity of perfectly
free specialization, so now he clearly sees that if a college education
is necessary for every future student in the special departments of the
university, that the college course must be shortened from four to three
years, or in other words, must be compressed. There is much opposition
to this idea. All traditions and very many apparently weighty arguments
seem to speak against it. Nevertheless, any student of average
intelligence and energy can now get the Harvard A. B. in three years;
before long this will be the rule, and in a short time the entire
country will have followed in the steps of this reform.

It is true that Eliot’s distinguished position has contributed very much
to his outward success—that position which he has filled for thirty-five
years, and which in itself guarantees a peculiar influence on academic
life. But the decisive thing has been his personality. He is
enthusiastic and yet conservative, bold and yet patient, always glad to
consider the objections of the youngest teacher; he is religious, and
nevertheless a confident exponent of modern science. First of all, he is
through and through an aristocrat: his interest is in the single,
gifted, and solid personality rather than in the masses; and his
conception of the inequality of man is the prime motive of his whole
endeavour. But at the same time he is the best of democrats, for he lays
the greatest stress on making it possible for the earnest spirit to
press on and emerge from the lowest classes of the people. Harvard has
set its roots as never before through the whole country, and thereby has
drawn on the intellectual and moral energies of the entire nation.

Under the president come the faculties, of which each one is presided
over by a dean. The largest faculty is the faculty of arts and sciences,
whose members lecture both for the college and for the Graduate School.
There is really no sharp distinction, and the announcement of lectures
says merely that certain elementary courses are designed for younger
students in the college, and that certain others are only for advanced
students. Moreover, the seminaries and laboratory courses for scientific
research are open only to students of the Graduate School. The rest is
common ground.

As always happens, the faculty includes very unlike material, a number
of the most distinguished investigators, along with others who are first
of all teachers. In general, the older generation of men belongs to that
time in which the ability to teach was thought more important than pure
scholarship. On the other hand, the middle generation is much devoted to
productive investigations. The youngest generation of instructors is
somewhat divided. A part holds the ideal of creative research, another
part is in a sort of reactionary mood against the modern high estimation
of specialized work; and has rather a tendency once more to emphasize
the idealistic side of academic activity—the beauty of form and the
cultivating value of belles-lettres as opposed to the dry details of
scholarship. This last is generally accounted the peculiar work of
German influence, and in opposition to this there is a demand for Gallic
polish and that scientific connoisseurship of the English gentleman.
Since, however, these men are thinking not of the main fact, but rather
of certain insignificant excrescences of German work, and since after
all nothing but the real work of investigation can lead to new
achievements which justify in a real university any advancement to
higher academic positions, there is no ground for fearing that this
reactionary mood will exert any particularly harmful influence on more
serious circles of workers. Such a movement may be even welcomed as a
warning against a possible ossification of science. Particularly the
college would be untrue to its ideals, if it were to forget the
humanities in favour of scientific matters of fact.

The lectures naturally follow the principle of thorough-going
specialization, and one who reads the Annual Report will probably be
surprised to discover how many students take up Assyrian or Icelandic,
Old Bulgarian, or Middle Irish. The same specialization is carried into
the seminaries for the advanced students; thus, for instance, in the
department of philosophy, there are special seminaries for ethics,
psychology, metaphysics, logic, sociology, pedagogy, Greek, and modern
philosophy. The theological faculty is the smallest. In spite of an
admirable teaching staff there remains something still to do before the
spirit of science is brought into perfect harmony with the strongly
sectarian character of the American churches. On the other hand, the
faculty of law is recognized as the most distinguished in the
English-speaking world. The difference between the Anglo-American law
and the Romano-German has brought it about that the entire arrangement
and method of study here are thoroughly different from the German. From
the very beginning law is taught by the study of actual decisions; the
introduction of this “case system,” in opposition to the usual text-book
system, was the most decisive advance of all and fixed the reputation of
the law faculty. And this system has been gradually introduced into
other leading schools of law. The legal course lasts three years, and
each year has its prescribed courses of lectures. In the first year, for
instance, students take up contracts, the penal code, property rights,
and civil processes. Perhaps the departure from the German method of
teaching law is most characteristically shown by the fact that the law
students are from the very first day the most industrious students of
all. These young men have passed through their rather easy college days,
and when now they leave those early years of study in the elm-shaded
college yard and withdraw to Austin Hall, the law building of the
university, they feel that at last they are beginning their serious
life-work. In the upper story of Austin Hall there is a large
reading-room for the students, with a legal reference library of over
sixty thousand volumes. This hall is filled with students, even late at
night, who are quite as busy as if they were young barristers
industriously working away on their beginning practice.

The German method is much more followed in the four-year medical course
of studies, and still there are here striking differences. The medical
faculty of Harvard, which is located in Boston on account of the larger
hospitals to be found in the city, is at this moment in the midst of
moving. Already work has been commenced on a new medical quadrangle with
the most modern and sumptuous edifices. In somewhat the same way, the
course of studies is rather under process of reformation. It is in the
stage of experimentation, and of course it is true throughout the world
that the astonishing advance of medicine has created new problems for
the universities. It seems impossible now for a student to master the
whole province, since his study time is of course limited. The latest
attempt at reform is along the line of the greatest possible
concentration. The student is expected for several months morning and
night to study only anatomy, to hear anatomical lectures, to dissect and
to use the microscope; and then again for several months he devotes
himself entirely to physiology, and so on. Much is hoped, secondly, from
the intuitive method of instruction. While in Germany the teaching of
physiology is chiefly by means of lectures and demonstrations, every
Harvard student has in addition during the period of physiological study
to work one hundred and eighty hours on prescribed experiments, so that
two hours of experimentation follow every one-hour lecture. In certain
lines of practical instruction, especially in pathological anatomy, the
American is at a disadvantage compared with the German, since the supply
of material for autopsy is limited. Popular democratic sentiment is very
strong against the idea that a man who dies in a public poor-house must
fall a prey to the dissecting knife. The clinical demonstrations are not
given in special university clinics, but rather in the large municipal
hospitals, where all the chief physicians are pledged to give practical
instruction in the form of demonstrations. In the third place, there is
an increasing tendency to give to the study of medicine a certain
mobility; in other words, to allow a rather early specialization. As to
the substance itself which is taught, Harvard’s medical school is very
much like a German university, and becomes daily more similar. In the
American as in the German university, the microscope and the retort have
taken precedence over the medicine chest.

Harvard has about five thousand students. Any boy who wishes to enter
must pass, at the beginning of the summer, a six-day written
examination; and these examinations are conducted in about forty
different places of the country under the supervision of officers of the
university. Any one coming from other universities is carefully graded
according to the standard of scholarship of his particular institution.
The amount of study required is not easily determined. Unlike the German
plan, every course of lectures is concluded at the end of the year with
a three-hour examination, and only the man who passes the examination
has the course in question put to his credit. Whoever during the four,
or perhaps three, college years has taken eighteen three-hour lecture
courses extending through the year receives the bachelor’s degree. In
practice, indeed, the matter becomes enormously complicated, yet
extensive administrative machinery regulates every case with due
justice. In the legal and medical faculties, everything is dependent on
the final examinations of the year. In the philosophical two, or more
often three, years of study after the bachelor’s degree lead to the
doctorate of philosophy.

The graduate student always works industriously through the year, but
the college student may be one of various types. Part of these men work
no less industriously than the advanced students; while another part,
and by no means the worst, would not for anything be guilty of such
misbehaviour. These men are not in Harvard to learn facts, but they have
come to college for a certain atmosphere—in order to assimilate by
reflection, as they say. Of course, the lectures of enthusiastic
professors and a good book or two belong to this atmosphere; and yet,
who can say that the hours spent at the club, on the foot-ball field, at
the theatre, in the Boston hotel, on the river or on horseback do not
contribute quite as much—not to mention the informal discussions about
God and the world, especially the literary and athletic worlds, as they
sit together at their window seats on the crimson cushions and smoke
their cigarettes? Harvard has the reputation through the country of
being the rich man’s university, and it is true that many live here in a
degree of luxury of which few German students would ever think. And yet
there are as many who go through college on the most modest means, who
perhaps earn their own livelihood or receive financial aid from the
college. A systematic evasion of lectures or excessive drinking or
card-playing plays no role at all. The distinctly youthful exuberance of
the students is discharged most especially in the field of sport, which
gets an incomparable influence on the students’ minds by means of the
friendly rivalry between different colleges. The foot-ball game between
Harvard and Yale in November, or the base-ball game in June, or the New
London races, are national events, for which special trains transport
thousands of visitors. Next to the historical traditions it is indeed
sport, which holds the body of Harvard students most firmly together,
and those who belong to the same class most firmly of all—that is, those
who are to receive their A. B. in the same year. Year after year the
Harvard graduates come back to Boston in order to see their old
class-mates again. They know that to be a Harvard man means for their
whole life to be the body-guard of the nation. They will stand for
Harvard, their sons will go to Harvard, and to Harvard they will
contribute with generous hands out of their material prosperity.

Harvard reflects all the interests of the nation, and all its social
contrasts. It has its political, religious, literary and musical clubs,
its scientific and social organizations, its daily paper for the
discussion of Harvard’s interests, edited by students, and three monthly
magazines; it has its public and serious parliamentary debates, and most
popular of all, operatic performances in the burlesque vein given by
students. Thousands of most diverse personalities work out their life
problems in this little city of lecture halls, laboratories, museums,
libraries, banquet halls, and club buildings, which are scattered about
the ancient elm-shaded yard. Each student has come, in the ardour and
ambition of youth, to these halls where so many intellectual leaders
have taught and so many great men of the outside world have spent their
student years; and each one goes away once more into the world a better
and stronger man.

One thing that a European visitor particularly expects to find in the
lecture room of an American university is not found in Harvard. There
are no women students in the school. Women graduates who are well
advanced are admitted to the seminaries and to scientific research in
the laboratories, but they are excluded from the college; and the same
is true of Yale, Columbia, Princeton, and Johns Hopkins. Of course,
Harvard has no prejudice against the higher education of women; but
Harvard is itself an institution for men. In an indirect way, the
teaching staff of Harvard University is utilized for the benefit of
women, since only a stone’s throw from the Harvard College gate is
Radcliffe College, which is for women, and in which only Harvard
instructors give lectures.

This picture of the largest university will stand as typical for the
others, although of course each one of the great academies has its own
peculiarities. While Harvard seeks to unite humanitarian and specialized
work, Johns Hopkins aims to give only the latter, while Yale and
Princeton aim more particularly at the former. Johns Hopkins in
Baltimore is a workshop of productive investigation, and in the province
of natural sciences and medicine Johns Hopkins has been a brilliant
example to the whole country. Yale University, in New Haven, stands
first of all for culture and personal development, although many a
shining name in scholarship is graven on the tablets of Yale. Columbia
University, in New York, gets its peculiar character from that great
city which is its background; and this to a much greater extent than the
University of Chicago, which has created its own environment and
atmosphere on the farthest outskirts of that great city. Chicago, and
Cornell University at Ithaca, the University of Pennsylvania, Ann Arbor
in Michigan, Berkeley and Stanford in California are the principal
institutions which admit women, and therein are outwardly distinguished
from the large institutions of the East.

The male students from the West have somewhat less polish, but are
certainly not less industrious. The Western students come generally out
of more modest conditions, and are therefore less indifferent with
regard to their own future. The student from Ann Arbor, Minnesota, or
Nebraska would compare with the student at Yale or Princeton about as a
student at Königsberg or Breslau would compare with one at Heidelberg or
Bonn. Along with that he comes from a lower level of public school
education. The Western institutions are forced to content themselves
with less exacting conditions for entrance, and the South has at the
present time no academies at all which are to be compared seriously with
the great universities of the country.

Next to Harvard the oldest university is Yale, which a short time ago
celebrated its two-hundredth anniversary. After Yale comes Princeton,
whose foundation took place in the middle of the eighteenth century.
Yale was founded as a protest against the liberal tendencies of Harvard.
Puritan orthodoxy had been rather overridden at Harvard, and so created
for itself a more secure fortress in the colony of Connecticut. In this
the mass of the population was strictly in sympathy with the church; the
free spirit of Harvard was too advanced for the people, and remained so
in a certain way for nearly two centuries. Therein has lain the strength
of Yale. Until a short time ago Yale had the more popular place in the
nation; it was the democratic rallying-ground in contrast with Harvard,
which was too haughtily aristocratic. Yale was the religious and the
conservative stronghold as contrasted with the free thought and progress
of Harvard. For some time it seemed as if the opposition of Yale against
the modern spirit would really prejudice its higher interests, and it
slowly fell somewhat from its great historic position. But recently,
under its young, widely known president, Hadley, the political
economist, it has been making energetic and very successful endeavours
to recover its lost position.

The history of Columbia University, in New York, began as early as 1754.
At that time it was King’s College, which after the War for Independence
was rechristened Columbia College. But the real greatness of Columbia
began only in the last few decades, with a development which is
unparalleled. Under its president, Seth Low, the famous medical, legal,
and political economical faculties were brought into closer relations
with the college, the Graduate School was organized, Teachers’ College
was developed, the general entrance conditions were brought up, and on
Morningside Heights a magnificent new university quadrangle was erected.
When Seth Low left the university, after ten years of irreproachable and
masterly administration, in order to become Mayor of New York in the
service of the Reform party, he was succeeded in the presidency by
Butler, a young man who since his earliest years had shown extraordinary
talents for administration, and who for many years as editor of the best
pedagogical magazine had become thoroughly familiar with the needs of
academic instruction. Columbia is favoured by every circumstance. If
signs are not deceptive, Columbia will soon stand nearest to Harvard at
the head of American universities. While Harvard and Yale, Princeton,
Pennsylvania, and Columbia are the most successful creations of the
Colonial days, Johns Hopkins and Chicago, Cornell and Leland Stanford
are the chief representatives of those institutions which have recently
been founded by private munificence. The state universities of
Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, and
California may be mentioned, finally, as the most notable state

Johns Hopkins was an able railroad president, who died after a long
life, in 1873, and bequeathed seven million dollars for a university and
academy to be founded in his native city of Baltimore. The
administrative council elected Gilman as its president, and it is
Gilman’s memorable service to have accomplished that of which America
was most in need in that moment of transition—an academy which should
concentrate its entire strength on the furtherance of serious scientific
investigation quite without concessions to the English college idea,
without any attempt to reach a great circle of students, or without any
effort to annex a legal or theological faculty. Its sole aim was to
attract really eminent specialists as teachers in its philosophical
faculties, to equip laboratories and seminaries in the most approved
manner, to fill these with advanced students, and to inspire these
students with a zeal for scientific productiveness. This experiment has
succeeded remarkably. It is clear to-day that the further development of
the American university will not consist in developing the special
professional school, but will rather combine the ideals of the college
with the ideals of original research. But at that time when the new
spirit which had been imported from Germany began to ferment, it was of
the first importance that some such institution should avowedly, without
being hampered by any traditions, take up the cause of that method which
seeks to initiate the future school-teacher into the secrets of the
laboratory. Since Gilman retired, a short time ago, the famous chemist,
Ira Remsen, has taken his place. A brilliant professor of Johns Hopkins,
Stanley Hall, has undertaken a similar experiment on a much more modest
scale, in the city of Worcester, with the millions which were given by
the philanthropist Clark. His Clark University has remained something of
a torso, but has likewise succeeded in advancing the impulse for
productive science in many directions, especially in psychology and

In the year 1868, Cornell University was founded in the town of Ithaca,
from the gifts of Ezra Cornell; and this university had almost exactly
opposite aims. It has aimed to create a university for the people, where
every man could find what he needed for his own education; it has become
a stronghold for the utilitarian spirit. The truly American spirit of
restless initiative has perhaps nowhere in the academic world found more
characteristic expression than in this energetic dwelling-place of
science. The first president was the eminent historian, Andrew D. White,
who was appointed later to his happy mission as Ambassador to Berlin. At
the present day the philosopher Shurman stands at the helm, whose
efforts in colonial politics are widely known. Senator Stanford, of
California, aimed to accomplish for the extreme West the same thing that
Cornell had done for the East, when in memory of his deceased son he
applied his entire property to the foundation of an academy in the
vicinity of San Francisco. Leland Stanford is, so far as its financial
endowment goes, probably the richest university in the country. As far
as its internal efficiency has gone, the thirty million dollars have not
meant so much, since the West has to depend on its own students and it
has to take them as it finds them. In spite of this, the university
accomplishes an excellent work in many directions under the leadership
of the zoölogist Jordan, its possibly too energetic president. While its
rival, the State University of California, near the Golden Gate of San
Francisco, is perhaps the most superbly situated university in the
world, Leland Stanford can lay claim to being the more picturesque. It
is a dream in stone conjured up under the Californian palms. Finally,
quite different, more strenuous than all others, some say more
Chicagoan, is the University of Chicago, to which the petroleum prince,
Rockefeller, has deflected some twelve million dollars. The University
of Chicago has everything and offers everything. It pays the highest
salaries, it is open the whole year through, it has accommodations for
women, and welcomes summer guests who come to stay only a couple of
months. It has the richest programme of collateral lectures, of
university publications and of its own periodicals, has an organic
alliance with no end of smaller colleges in the country, has
observatories on the hill-tops and laboratories by the sea; and,
whatever it lacks to-day, it is bound to have to-morrow. It is almost
uncanny how busily and energetically this university has developed
itself in a few years under the distinguished and brilliant presidential
policy of Harper. One must admire the great work. It is possible that
this place is still not equal to the older Eastern universities as the
home of quiet maturity and reflection; but for hard, scholarly work it
has few rivals in the world.

Johns Hopkins and Cornell, Stanford and Chicago, have been carefully
designed and built according to one consistent plan, while the state
universities have developed slowly out of small colleges more like the
old institutions of Colonial days. Their history is for the most part
uneventful; it is a steady and toilsome working to the top, which has
been limited not so much by the finances of the states, but rather by
the conditions of the schools in the regions about them. The largest
state university is that of Michigan, at Ann Arbor, not far from
Detroit. In number of students it is next to Harvard. One of its
specialties is a homœopathic medical faculty in addition to the

It would be a great mistake to suppose that, with the blossoming out of
the large and middle-sized universities, all of which have colleges as
one of their departments, the small colleges have ceased to play their
part. Quite on the contrary; in a certain sense the small college
situated in rural seclusion has found a new task to work out in contrast
to the great universities. It is only in the small college that the
young student is able to come into personal contact with the professor,
and only there can his special individuality be taken into account by
his alma mater. One scheme does not fit all the students, and not only
in those regions where the homely college represents the highest
attainable instruction of its kind, but also in many districts of the
maturest culture, the college is for many youths the most favourable
place for development. Thus the New England States would feel a great
loss to the cause of culture if such old colleges as Williams, Brown,
Amherst, and Dartmouth should simply deliver over its students to

These smaller colleges fulfil a special mission, therefore, and they do
their best when they do not try to seem more than they really are. There
was the danger that the colleges would think themselves improved by
introducing some fragments of research work into their curriculum, and
so spoiling a good humanitarian college by offering a bad imitation of a
university. Of course, there can be no talk of a sharp separation
between college and university, for the reasons which we have emphasized
many times before. It is necessary, as we have seen, that there should
be a long continuous scale from the smallest college up to the largest
university. It is true that many of the small institutions are entirely
superfluous, and not capable of any great development, and so from year
to year some are bound to disappear or to be absorbed by others. Many
are really business enterprises, and many more are sectarian
institutions. But in general there exists among these institutions a
healthy struggle for existence which prospers the strongest of them and
makes them do their best. The right of existence of many of the small
and isolated professional schools is much more questionable. Almost all
the best medical, legal, and theological schools of this order have
already been assimilated to this or that college, and the growing
together of the academies which started separately and from small
beginnings into organic universities is in conformity with the
centralizing tendency everywhere in progress in our time.

Many of the smaller colleges are, like all the state institutions, open
to both sexes. Besides these, however, there thrive certain colleges
which are exclusively for women. The best known of these are Bryn Mawr,
Vassar, Wellesley, Smith, Radcliffe, and Barnard. Barnard College, in
New York, stands in the same relation to Columbia University as
Radcliffe College does to Harvard. Every one of these leading women’s
colleges has its own physiognomy, and appeals rather to its special type
of young woman. Vassar, Wellesley, Smith, and Bryn Mawr lie in quiet,
retired little towns or villages: and the four years of college life
spent together by something like a thousand blooming, happy young women
between the years of eighteen and twenty-two, in college halls which are
surrounded by attractive parks, are four years of extraordinary charm.
Only Bryn Mawr and Radcliffe lay any special stress on the advanced
critical work of the graduates. In Smith, Vassar, and Wellesley it is
mostly a matter of assimilation, and the standard of scholarship is not
much higher than that of the German Arbiturientenexamen, together with
possibly one or two semesters of the philosophical faculty. In
Wellesley, women are almost the only teachers; while in Bryn Mawr almost
all are men, and in Smith the teachers are both men and women.

In statistical language, the following conditions are found to hold. If
for the moment we put college and graduate schools together as the
“philosophical faculty,” there studied in the year 1900 in the
philosophical faculties, 1,308 students for every million inhabitants;
in the legal faculties 166, in the medical 333, and in the theological
faculties 106. Ten years previously the corresponding figures were 877,
72, 266, 112, respectively, and twenty-five years ago they were 744, 61,
196, and 120, respectively. Thus the increase in the last ten years has
been a remarkable one; theology alone shows some diminution in its
numbers. If we consider now the philosophical faculties more closely, we
discover the surprising fact that in the last decade the male students
have increased 61 per cent., while the female have increased 149 per
cent. The degrees conferred in the year 1900 were as follows: college
degrees of bachelor of arts—to men 5,129, to women 2,140. The degree of
bachelor of science, which is somewhat lower in its standard, and
requires no classical preparation, was given to 2,473 men and 591 women.
The degree of doctor of philosophy to 322 men and 20 women. The private
endowment of all colleges together amounts to 360 million dollars, of
which 160 million consist in income-bearing securities. The annual
income amounted to 28 millions, not counting donations of that year, of
which 11 millions came from the fees of students, about 7 millions were
the interest on endowments, and 7.5 millions were contributed by the
government. Thus the student pays about 39 per cent. of what his tuition
costs. The larger donations for the year amounted to about 12 millions
more. The number of colleges for men or for both sexes was 480, for
women alone 141. This figure says very little; since, in the case of
many women’s institutions, the name college is more monstrously abused
than in any other, and in the West and South is assumed by every upstart
girls’ school. There are only 13 women’s colleges which come up to a
high standard, and it may at once be added that the number of
polytechnic and agricultural schools whose conditions for entrance
correspond on the average to those of the colleges amounts to 43. Also
these stand on many different levels, and at the head of them all is the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Boston, which is now under the
brilliant leadership of President Pritchett. Almost all the technical
schools are state institutions.

There were, in the year 1900, 151 medical faculties having 25,213
students: all except three provide a four years’ course of study.
Besides these, there were 7,928 dental students studying in 54 dental
schools, and 4,042 students of pharmacy in 53 separate institutions.
There were 12,516 law students, and 8,009 theological students. Out of
the law students 151, and of the theological 181, were women.

                           CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

One who surveys, without prejudice, the academic life of the country in
reference to scientific work will receive a deep impression of the
energy and carefulness with which this enormous national machinery of
education furthers the higher intellectual life. And the continuous
gradation of institutions by which the higher academy is able to adapt
itself to every local need, so that no least remnant of free initiative
can be lost and unlimited development is made possible at every point,
must be recognized by every one as the best conceivable system for the

It is not to be denied that it brings with it certain difficulties and
disadvantages. The administrative difficulties which proceed from the
apparent incomparability of the institutions are really not serious,
although the foreigner who is accustomed to uniformity in his
universities, Gymnasia, certificates and doctorial diplomas, is inclined
to overemphasize these difficulties in America. The real disadvantages
of the system of continuous gradations is found, not in the outer
administration, but in its inner methods. The German undergraduate takes
the attitude of one who learns; his teacher must be thoroughly well
informed, but no one expects a school-teacher himself to advance
science. The graduate student, on the other hand, is supposed to take a
critical attitude, and therefore his teacher has to be a teacher of
methods—that is, he must be a productive investigator. Wherever, as in
Germany, there lies a sharp distinction between these two provinces, it
is easy to keep the spirit of investigation pure; but where, as in
America, one merges into the other, the principles at stake are far too
likely to be confused. Men who fundamentally are nothing but able
school-teachers are then able to work up and stand beside the best
investigators in the university faculties, because the principle of
promotion on the ground of scientific production solely cannot be so
clearly separated from the methods of selection which are adapted to the
lower grades of instruction. To be sure, this has its advantages in
other directions; because, in so far as there is no sharp demarcation,
the spirit of investigation can also grow from above down, and therefore
in many a smaller college there will be more productive scientists
teaching than would be found, perhaps, in a German school; but yet the
influences of the lower on the higher departments of instruction are the
predominant ones. Investigation thrives best when the young scholar
knows that his advancement depends ultimately on strictly scientific
achievements, and not on work of a popular sort, nor on success in the
teaching of second-hand knowledge. This fact has often been brought home
to the public mind in recent years, and the leading universities have
already more and more recognized the principle of considering scientific
achievements to be the main ground for preferment.

But productive scholarship is interfered with in still other ways.
Professors are often too much busied with administrative concerns; and
although this sort of administrative influence may be attractive for
many professors, its exercise requires much sacrifice of time. More
particularly, the professors of most institutions, although there are
many exceptions among the leading universities, are overloaded with
lectures, and herein the graded transition from low to high works
unfavourably. Especially in Western institutions, the administrative
bodies do not see why the university professor should not lecture as
many hours in the week as a school teacher; and most dangerous of all,
as we have already mentioned in speaking of popular education, is the
fact that the scholar is tempted, by high social and financial rewards,
to give scientifically unproductive popular lectures and to write
popular essays.

And the list of factors which have worked against scientific
productiveness can be still further increased. To be sure, it would be
false here to repeat the old tale that the American professor is
threatened in his freedom by the whimsical demands of rich patrons, who
have founded or handsomely endowed many of the universities. That is
merely newspaper gossip; and the three or four cases which have busied
public opinion in the last ten years and have been ridiculously
overestimated, are found, on closer inspection, to have been cases which
could have come up as well in any non-partisan institution in the world.
There may have been mistakes on both sides; perhaps the university
councils have acted with unnecessary rigour or lack of tact, but it has
yet to be proved that there has been actual injustice anywhere. Even in
small colleges purely scientific activity never interferes with the
welfare of a professor. A blatant disrespect for religion would hurt his
further prospects there, to be sure, just as in the Western state
institutions the committees appointed by the legislature would dislike a
hostile political attitude. Yet not even in the smallest college has any
professor ever suffered the least prejudice by reason of his scientific
labours. Science in America is not hampered by any lack of academic

On the other hand, the American university lacks one of the most
important forces of German universities—the Privatdocent, who lives only
for science, and without compensation places his teaching abilities in
the service of his own scientific development. The young American
scholar is welcome only where a paid position is vacant; but if he finds
no empty instructorship in a large university, he is obliged to be
content with a position in a small college, where the entire
intellectual atmosphere, as regards the studies, apparatus, and amount
of work exacted, all work against his desire to be scientifically
productive, and finally perhaps kill it entirely. The large universities
are just beginning to institute the system of voluntary docents—which,
to be sure, encounters administrative difficulties. There is also a
dangerous tendency toward academic in-breeding. The former students of
an institution are always noticeably preferred for any vacant position,
and the claims of capable scholars are often disregarded for the sake of
quite insignificant men. Scientific productiveness meets further with
the material obstacle of the high cost of printing in America, which
makes it often more difficult for the young student here than in Germany
to find a publisher for his works.

Against all this there are some external advantages: first, the
lavishness of the accessories of investigation. The equipment of
laboratories, libraries, museums, observatories, special institutes, and
the fitting out of expeditions yield their due benefits. Then there are
various sorts of free assistance—fellowships, travelling scholarships,
and other foundations—which make every year many young scholars free for
scientific work. There is also the admirable “sabbatical year.” The
large universities give every professor leave of absence every seventh
year, with the express purpose of allowing him time for his own
scholarly labours. Another favourable circumstance is the excellent
habit of work which every American acquires during his student years;
and here it is not to be doubted that the American is on the average,
and in consequence of his system has to be, more industrious than the
German average student. From the beginning of his course, he is credited
with only such lecture courses as he has passed examinations on, and
these are so arranged as to necessitate not only presence at the
lectures, but also the study of prescribed treatises; the student is
obliged to apply himself with considerable diligence. A student who
should give himself entirely to idling, as may happen in Germany, would
not finish his first college year. If the local foot-ball gossip is no
more sensible than the talk at duelling clubs, at least the practice of
drinking beer in the morning and playing skat have no evil counterpart
of comparable importance in America. The American student recreates
himself on the athletic field rather than in the ale-house. Germany is
exceedingly sparing of time and strength during school years, but lets
both be wasted in the universities to the great advantage of a strong
personality here and there, but to the injury of the average man.
America wastes a good deal of time during school years, but is more
sparing during the college and university courses, and there accustoms
each student to good, hard work.

And most of all, the intellectual make-up of the American is especially
adapted to scientific achievements. This temperament, owing to the
historical development of the nation, has so far addressed itself to
political, industrial, and judicial problems, but a return to
theoretical science has set in; and there, most of all, the happy
combination of inventiveness, enthusiasm, and persistence in pursuit of
a goal, of intellectual freedom and elasticity, of feeling for form and
of idealistic instinct for self-perfection will yield, perhaps soon,
remarkable triumphs.

We have hitherto spoken only of the furtherance of science by the higher
institutions of learning, but we must look at least hastily on what is
being done outside of academic circles. We see, then, first of all, the
magnificent government institutions at Washington which, without doing
any teaching, are in the sole service of science. The cultivation of the
sciences by twenty-eight special institutions and an army of 6,000
persons, conducted at an annual expense of more than $8,000,000, is
certainly a unique feature of American government. There is no other
government in the world which is organized for such a many-sided
scientific work; and nevertheless, everything which is done there is
closely related to the true interests of government—that is, not to the
interests of the dominant political party, but to those of the great
self-governing nation. All the institutes, as different as they are in
their special work, have this in common—that they work on problems which
relate to the country, population, products, and the general conditions
of America, so that they meet first of all the national needs of an
economical, social, intellectual, political, and hygienic sort, and only
in a secondary way contribute to abstract science.

The work of these government institutes is peculiar, moreover, in that
the results are published in many handsomely gotten-up volumes, and sent
free of cost to hundreds of thousands of applicants. The institutions
are devoted partly to science and partly to political economy. Among the
scientific institutes are the admirable Bureau of Geological Survey,
which has six hundred officials, and undertakes not only geological but
also palæontological and hydrographic investigations, and carries on
mineralogical and lithological laboratories; then the Geodetic Survey,
which studies the coasts, rivers, lakes, and mountains of the country;
the Marine Observatory, for taking astronomical observations; the
Weather Bureau, which conducts more than one hundred and fifty
meteorological stations; the Bureau of Biology, which makes a special
study of the geographical distribution of plants and animals; the Bureau
of Botany, which studies especially all problems connected with seeds;
the Bureau of Forestry, which scientifically works on questions of the
national timber supply; the important Bureau of Entomology, which has
studied with great success the relations of insects to agriculture; the
Bureau of Agriculture, which statistically works out experiments on
planting, and which directs government experiment stations situated
throughout the country; the Department of Fisheries, which conducts
stations for marine biology; and many others. Among the political
economic institutes in the broad sense of the word are the Bureau of
Labour, which undertakes purely sociological investigations into labour
conditions; the Corporation Bureau, which studies the conditions of
organized business; the Bureau of General Statistics; the Census Bureau,
which every ten years takes a census more complete than that of any
other country. The Census of 1890 consisted of 39 large folio volumes,
and the collecting of information alone cost $10,000,000. The Census of
1900 is still in course of publication. The Bureau of Education also
belongs here, which studies purely theoretically the statistics of
education. Then there are the Bureau of Immigration and several others.
All these bureaus are really designed to impart instruction and advice;
they have no authority to enforce any measures. But the extraordinary
publicity which is given to their printed reports gives them a very
considerable influence; and the thoroughness with which the
investigations are carried on, thanks to the liberal appropriations of
Congress, makes of these bureaus scientific and economic institutions of
the highest order.

We have still to speak of the most famous of the government bureaus, the
Smithsonian Institution. In 1836 the government came into the
possession, by bequest, of the whole property of the Englishman
Smithson, as a principal with which an institution should be founded
bearing his name, and serving the advance and dissemination of science.
It was never known just why this Oxonian and mineralogist left his large
property to the city of Washington, which then numbered only 5,000
inhabitants. Although he had never visited America, he wrote to a
friend: “The best blood of England flows in my veins; my father’s family
is from Northumberland, my mother’s is related to kings. But I desire to
have my name remembered when the titles of the Northumberlands and the
Percys shall have been forgotten.” His instinct guided him aright, and
the Smithsonian Institution is to-day an intellectual centre in
Washington—that city which is the political centre of the New World. It
should be mentioned, in passing, that Congress accepted the bequest only
after lively opposition; it was objected that to receive the gift of a
foreigner was beneath the dignity of the government. As a fact, however,
the success of the institution is not due so much to this foreign
endowment as to the able labours of its three presidents: the physicist
Henry, who served from 1846 to 1878, the zoölogist Baird from 1878 to
1887, and the physicist Langley, who has been at the head since 1887.
All three have been successful in finding ways by which the institute
could serve the growth and dissemination of science.

It was agreed from the outset not to found a university which would
compete with others already existing, but an institute to complement all
existing institutions, and to be a sort of centre among them. The great
institution was divided into the following divisions: first, the
National Museum, in which the visible results of all the national
expeditions and excavations are gathered and arranged. The American idea
is that a scientific museum should not be a series of articles with
their labels, but rather a series of instructive labels, illustrated by
typical specimens. Only in this way, it is thought, does a museum really
help to educate the masses. The collection, which is visited every year
by more than 300,000 persons, includes 750,000 ethnological and
anthropological objects; almost 2,000,000 zoölogical, 400,000 botanical,
and almost 300,000 palæontological specimens. Then there is the National
Zoölogical Park, which contains animal species that are dying out; the
Astrophysical Observatory, in which Langley carries on his famous
experiments on the invisible portion of the solar spectrum; the
Ethnological Bureau, which specially studies the Indian; and much else.
The department of exchanges of this institute is a unique affair; it
negotiates exchanges between scientists, libraries, and other American
institutions, and also between these and European institutions. As
external as this service may seem, it has become indispensable to the
work of American science. Moreover, the library of the institution is
among the most important in the country; and its zoölogical,
ethnological, physical, and geological publications, which are
distributed free to 4,000 libraries, already fill hundreds of volumes.

Any one examining the many-sided and happily circumstanced scientific
work of these twenty-eight institutes at Washington will come to feel
that the equipment could be used to better advantage if actual teaching
were to be undertaken, and that the organization of the institutes into
a national university attracting students from all parts of the country
would tend to stimulate their achievements. In fact, the thought of a
national university as the crowning point of the educational system of
the country has always been entertained in Washington; and those who
favour this idea are able to point to George Washington as the one who
first conceived such a plan. In spite of vigorous agitation, this plan
is still not realized, chiefly because the traditions of the country
make education the concern of the separate states, and reserve it for
such institutions as are independent of politics.

It is a different question, whether the time will not come when the
nation will desire an institution of a higher sort—one which will not
rival the other large universities of the country, but will stand above
them all and assume new duties. A purely scientific institution might
exist, admitting students only after they have passed their doctorial
examination, and of which the professors should be elected by the vote
of their colleagues through the country. There is much need of such a
university; but the time may not be ripe for it now, and it may be a
matter of the far future. And yet at the present rate at which science
is developing in the country, the far future means only ten or fifteen
years hence. When the time is ripe, the needed hundreds of millions of
dollars will be forthcoming.

For the present, a sort of half-way station to a national university at
Washington has been reached. This is the Carnegie Institute, whose
efficiency can so far not be wholly estimated. With a provisional
capital of $10,000,000 given by Andrew Carnegie, it is proposed to aid
scientific investigations throughout the country, and on the
recommendation of competent men to advance to young scientists the
necessary means for productive investigations. There is, unfortunately,
a danger here that in this way the other universities and foundations of
the country may feel relieved of their responsibility, and so relax
their efforts. It may be that people will look to the centre for that
which formerly came from the periphery, and that in this way the general
industry will become less intense. Most of all, the Carnegie Institute
has, up to this point, lacked broad fruitful ideas and a real programme
of what it proposes to do. If the institute cannot do better than it has
so far done, it is to be feared that its arbitrary and unsystematic aid
will do, in the long run, more harm than good to the scientific life of
the country.

The same general conditions, on a smaller scale and with many
variations, are found outside of Washington in a hundred different
scientific museums and collections—biological, hygienic, medical,
historical, economic, and experimental institutions; zoölogical and
botanical gardens; astronomical observatories; biological stations,
which are found sometimes under state or city administration, sometimes
under private or corporate management. Thus the Marine Laboratory at
Woods Hole is a meeting-place every summer for the best biologists.
Sometimes important collections can be found in the most unlikely
places—as, for instance, in the historic museum of the city of Salem,
which, although it has gone to sleep to-day, is still proud of its
history. The large cities, however, like New York, Philadelphia, Boston,
Chicago, and Baltimore, have established admirable institutions, on
which scientific work everywhere depends. Then there are the political
capitals, such as Albany, with their institutions. That German who is
most thoroughly acquainted with conditions of scientific collections,
Professor Meyer, the